Mumbai: After failing to launch merchandise themed after the Indian Premier League (IPL) in a big way in the first two seasons, the cricket board is keen to set the ball rolling in time for Season 3.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is likely to appoint a central distributor by next week to sell merchandise relating to the popular Twenty20 tournament, billed by Forbes as the “fastest appreciating sports-property on earth”, a senior official said.
The auction of international players for the new season is scheduled to take place on Tuesday.
“We are looking to appoint a central distribution partner in time for IPL 2010,” said Utkarsh Singh, IPL’s chief marketing officer. “We expect this announcement to be made within the next week.”
The distributor will sell IPL-themed products—ranging from watches, apparel, accessories and toys to bed and bath products—through stand-alone IPL stores as well as at stadiums, airports, multiplexes and shopping malls.
IPL stores will stock items manufactured by the central distributor as well as merchandise that is already being produced by partner agencies or brands—such as Reebok India, which manufactures merchandise for the IPL franchisee Kolkata Knight Riders.
The contract could be for five years, added Singh, but declined to comment on how revenues from the sale of merchandise would be split between the licensee, BCCI and the eight IPL franchisees.
The board also recently appointed Bandelier 1878 as the first merchandise licensee of the IPL brand. The Swiss watch brand, which was established in the 1860s and ceased production in the 1970s, is betting on the IPL association to catapult itself back onto the global scene.
“The IPL has become a shining example for the business of sport and we at Bandelier saw a business opportunity there,” said Raouff Ansari, managing director of Finex Lifestyle Works Pvt. Ltd, the firm that is bringing Bandelier to India.
With good reason. A 2009 ranking of the 200 most valuable sporting properties by SportsPro Magazine, which is published by the Henley Media Group, pegged IPL at No. 5.
The US National Football League was ranked the most valuable sports property at $4.5 billion (Rs20,565 crore), followed by three other American properties—Major League Baseball at $3.9 billion, the National Basketball Association at $3.35 billion and Nascar at $1.9 billion.
IPL, valued at $1.6 billion, emerged as the newest property on the list at No. 5—a staggering achievement for a two-year-old property.
Bandelier will soon bring out the “IPL Trophy” collection, comprising watches, a range of writing instruments, cufflinks and tie-bars. With watches priced at Rs45,000-55,000, the line will be modelled around the league and its teams.
The watches will be available in all cricketing nations as well as markets with large Indian populations, such as the US and Canada. The watches may also be sold in high-transit areas such as airports.
Bandelier will also launch a limited edition piece priced in the Rs1.5-2 lakh range, in the middle of the IPL tournament.
This hectic activity follows BCCI’s failed efforts to launch IPL-related merchandise with anything resembling the resounding success of the league itself.
While IPL teams have tied up with partner brands to produce branded merchandise, the goods haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves. Currently, team merchandise is only available in select brand outlets and on www.iplshop.com, the online site for all IPL team merchandise.
“The reason it fell through the last couple of times was because the BCCI was asking for a minimum guarantee (on merchandise sales),” said a senior official from a sports marketing firm, who did not wish to be identified. “There was a clear disconnect between what the BCCI was expecting and what merchandising agencies thought feasible.”
Another expert said firms were also sceptical about signing licensing deals in India due to the poor implementation of anti-piracy laws.
“Piracy is an issue and will continue to be,” said Sandeep Dahiya, associate vice-president (communications and consumer products) at Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd. “The bigger issue with licensing and IPL, however, is whether the teams are treating it as a revenue model or a marketing model.”
Dahiya explained that while both models have their benefits, teams choosing to short-sell their brands for pure marketing gains could “end up hurting each other or the industry, if they don’t see it as a serious revenue model”.
All eight franchisees will participate in Tuesday’s auction of foreign players for Season 3 in Mumbai.
Each team is allowed 10 foreign players, and most have eight or nine of them already. But the auction will allow the teams to bring on board additional players, who could stand-in for those who may not be available to play this year owing to prior commitments with their national boards.
IPL authorities said up to 12 slots are likely to be filled up at the auction. The franchisees will pick from a list of 66 shortlisted cricketers from all nine Test-playing nations, including 11 players each from Pakistan, Australia and South Africa; nine from Sri Lanka; eight each from England and West Indies; four from New Zealand; and one each from Bangladesh, Canada, Zimbabwe and Holland.
Shahid Afridi (Pakistan), Kieron Pollard (West Indies), Yusuf Abdulla (South Africa), Phillip Hughes (Australia) and Shane Bond (New Zealand) are some of the seasoned players up for grabs.