Mumbai: Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MSM), the official telecast partner for the Indian Premier League (IPL), may have been taken aback by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) signing a sponsorship deal with a rival, but seems to be learning to live with the unprecedented arrangement.
Star India Pvt. Ltd has signed a three-year associate sponsorship deal with BCCI for nearly Rs.100 crore that will allow it to advertise at the venues of matches, all of which will be shown on MSM’s SIX and MAX channels. The sixth season of the tournament runs from 3 April to 26 May. The Business Standard newspaper reported the Star-BCCI deal on 27 March.
The deal involves more than just “brand presence”, said Uday Shankar, chief executive officer (CEO) of Star India. “We intend to attract IPL’s loyal viewership base and cross-leverage it across our entertainment portfolio.”
Manjit Singh, CEO of MSM, said, “We view it as an act of desperation by Star to be part of the biggest sporting entertainment event. Star’s decision to be part of IPL simply validates our strategy of having bagged the telecast rights.” MSM has the telecast rights for the tournament for 10 years up to 2017.
After a flagging of interest in the sport last year, the improved performance of the Indian cricket team seems to have led to a boost in sponsorship demand. To be sure, MSM, formerly known as Sony Entertainment Television, was forced to reduce rates in order to rope in telecast sponsors this year.
The attraction of IPL for Star lies in its appeal across the sexes and to a younger age group, similar to the kind of viewership that the company is increasingly seeking for flagship Hindi general entertainment channel Star Plus.
The on-ground associate sponsorship will allow Star India to display on perimeter advertising boards, pitch mats and boundary rope banners at all stadiums. Star joins central sponsors such as Yes Bank Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd, the last of which is also the title sponsor.
As Shankar said above, the association won’t be limited to logo presence. The Twenty20 league will be used to promote the Star Plus tagline Rishta Wahi Soch Nayi by rewarding a cricketer for “innovative and fresh thinking” after every match, Star executives said. Television celebrities from Star Plus shows will present awards after every match, apart from other promotional activities, they said.
IPL’s viewership reach last year was 170 million, according to MSM executives. “This year, for IPL-6, we expect to reach out to around 200 million viewers. Each year the reach has grown, while ratings have almost stabilized,” added Singh.
Star’s IPL deal adds to the broadcasting, Internet and mobile rights for all international cricket played in India between 2012 and 2018. “IPL is a powerful viewer universe. Our sponsorship is a tribute to the powerful platform that BCCI and MSM have created,” said Shankar.
Media experts said there’s potential for a disruptive campaign.
“This is the first time something of this nature has happened in broadcasting. One can view it as Star trying to erode Sony’s value. It seems like a tactical initiative from Star to instigate Sony,” said Nitin Jain, director at Do More Communications Pvt. Ltd.
Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands India, which owns mediabuying agency Lodestar UM, said, “Star wants to be associated with the sport (cricket) and establish itself as a brand that is promoting cricket since it acquired BCCI rights last year.”