New Delhi: Indian Premier League (IPL) teams will carry out a slew of marketing exercises after the 51-day tournament is over to build their brands and keep interest alive before the next season.
Almost all the franchises that participate in the four-year-old quick-format cricket tournament are hiring specialised branding firms to help them organize sporting and non-sporting events throughout the year, particularly targeting the youth and children.
“When IPL is on, the focus is on players and the matches. When cricket is not on, we need to strengthen the brand and keep it vibrant and attractive to our target audience,” said Amrit Mathur, chief operating officer of the Delhi franchise. “So it’s going to be a comprehensive year-long activity.”
Mathur said the franchise management will sit down with the team’s 14 sponsors—including brands such as Coca Cola, Adidas, Panasonic, Kingfisher and Idea—to draw up post-tournament promotional events once the IPL ends on 28 May.
They are already looking at organising music concerts and cricket tournaments for street children. Fans will be informed about the events through social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“Every team is doing this as it’s not just about the 45-day affair,” said Mehul Shah, vice-chairman of the Kochi Tusker Kerala team. “The show must go on for 365 days.”
Rajasthan Royals has hired UK-based Photolink Creative Group, which has helped with the branding of Manchester United and Everton football clubs. Photolink will chalk out programmes for engaging fans after IPL, said Holly Harvey, director of business development at the company’s India unit, but declined to give details of the strategy.
Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) is working with Mumbai-based MarketGate Consulting. The marketing firm’s director, Shripad Nadkarni, also declined to share plans, citing client confidentiality.
OPN Advertising Pvt. Ltd is planning sports-related corporate social responsibility initiatives for Chennai Super Kings, said S. Chockalingam, founder and director of the advertising firm. “We thought of doing a corporate tournament, but it’s too much cricket. That’s why we want to go beyond cricket to other sports,” he said.
Rakesh Singh, the head of marketing at Chennai Super Kings, said the franchise will also hold painting competitions for schoolchildren this year and has launched a monthly comic series featuring its cricketers.
Pune Warriors India is planning cricket coaching camps with its players as well as local cricket tournaments.
Dhruv Jha, business head for brand experiences at the consulting firm Lodestar Universal, said team sponsors also want to take IPL-related marketing beyond the tournament.
“We are talking to a lot of clients in terms of developing plans and proposals that are non-IPL but yet they will grow both the team’s equity and their association with them,” said Jha, whose firm advised Tata Motors Ltd’s sponsorship deal with Delhi Daredevils and KitKat chocolate’s association with KKR.
“All the franchises have realized that we just come and go and don’t seem to keep it alive. Now they want to prolong and sustain this as a brand,” he added.
Mathur of Delhi Daredevils said it makes business sense for the franchises to come up with year-long marketing strategies. “This year, cricket as well as the financial side of IPL have undergone phenomenal changes,” he said, referring to the new players’ bidding that took place ahead of the tournament, the addition of two new teams and sponsorship changes for most of the teams.
Franchises have signed players on three-year contracts; the sponsors are also on similar deals. “Now things are settled to start these kinds of promotions,” Mathur said.
“Now that the tournament has matured and the teams are in place, there will be some continued effort to market the team and build the franchises,” said Shubha George, chief operating officer of media agency MEC.
Television ratings of the first 26 matches of the tournament have, however, been the lowest since the IPL’s inception in 2008. The average rating for the 26 matches in six metros—Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad—dropped to 4.3 from 5.52 last year, according to television audience measurement agency TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd.
Jha of Lodestar said lower ratings should prompt franchises to carry out more “sustainable activities” to build their brands.
MEC’s George said the fall in television ratings was expected, with the number of matches going up from 60 last year to 74 this year.
“I don’t think I would be alarmed by the fact that it’s going down,” George said. “It is going down as there are more matches and it’s not possible for viewers to watch with the same level of intensity. There will be a middle period where there will be a slackening of interest.”