New Delhi: On the face of it, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has already been a huge hit, attracting millions of dollars in bids from the country’s biggest industrialists and Bollywood stars for franchisee ownership and for television rights.
But, the much hyped cricket league, which starts on Friday, has surprisingly stumbled in its attempt to find new advertisers willing to sign up for all the available sponsorship slots.
Less than 24 hours from the coin toss of the first match, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), promoters of IPL, was still hunting for ground sponsors. Back in February, they signed two-wheeler company Hero Honda Ltd for about Rs20 crore as the first of their planned five co-sponsors. On Thursday, after months of negotiations with several companies, the board managed to get Citibank and Indian Oil Corp. Ltd as two additional ground sponsors, leaving two slots open.
Mumbai Indians team members at a welcome ceremony in Mumbai on Thursday. The much hyped IPL has stumbled in its quest for new advertisers willing to sign up for available sponsorship slots
“We are still looking (for advertisers) and if we don't find the right client, we will just have to go with what we have,” said a senior BCCI executive, not wanting to be named.
Meanwhile, even Sony Entertainment Television (SET), the official broadcast sponsors of IPL, ended up reducing the number of associate sponsors from eight to six.
Industry observers say that despite the hype and cricket’s popularity in India, the league has not been able to broaden the appeal for cricket beyond the somewhat limited number of companies willing to bet on the sport to drive their brands and businesses, with some exceptions.
And the steep costs of sponsoring cricket haven’t helped either.
The list of sponsors associated with IPL now includes real estate developer DLF Ltd, Hero Honda, Kingfisher Airlines Ltd and Pepsi, while Sony has signed Hyundai Motor India Ltd, Vodafone Group Plc., Max New York Life Insurance Co., Godrej Appliances Ltd, Coca-Cola India Inc. and Citibank.
Many of these companies are sponsoring several properties across multiple IPL platforms. For instance, Kingfisher is the official umpire sponsor for all matches, the airline partner for IPL, the owner of the Royal Challengers Bangalore team as well as co-sponsor for the rival Delhi Daredevils team. Similarly, Hero Honda is also the official team sponsor for the Delhi team, in addition to being one of the ground sponsors for IPL.
“There is one Coke and one Pepsi and only so many other cricket advertisers in India. And everyone wants them, whether it is the eight individual franchisee owners, Sony for on-air sponsorship or IPL for the on-ground participation,” said Dheeraj Malhotra, marketing and tournament manager for IPL. “In India, there are a handful of companies that include sports in their advertising budgets, and some, in fact, have moved away from cricket altogether. Look at LG and Samsung, they both used to invest heavily in cricket till recently. Today, they have diverted their attention to other genres.”
Industry professionals say a steep increase in ad rates could be one of the reasons behind not many advertisers wanting to invest in cricket.
According to a senior executive of a market research company, “not many companies can afford to pay Rs5 lakh for 10 seconds except for maybe multinationals”. “A Bata (footwear) and a Britannia (cookies) will rather go to other channels, which are not only more affordable, but also bring in a varied set of eyeballs unlike cricket which is still largely men-centric.”
Indeed, other than traditional advertisers Coca-Cola and Pepsi, not a single company sponsoring or advertising on IPL is from the fast moving consumer goods sector, among the biggest advertisers on TV.
On the contrary, Shah Rukh Khan-hosted reality quiz show, Kya Aap Paanchvi Paas Se Tez Hain, (Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader), which is scheduled to go on air on 25 April, has more than twice the number of advertisers compared with IPL. Star Plus, the channel that will broadcast the show, claims to have sealed deals with 11 sponsors in two weeks, whereas SET took close to three months to finalize deals with its six sponsors after it won the rights in January this year. Advertisers on quiz show include Bharti Airtel, LG Electronics, Halls, Ambuja Cement, Pidilite Industries, Havell’s India, General Motors, Pepsi, L’Oreal India, Tata Sky and Parle Products.
Incidentally, in the case of Paanchvi Paas, even the advertising rates are higher than those of IPL. While Vodafone spent Rs20 lakh for being the presenting sponsor on IPL, Airtel had to dish out Rs50 lakh for the same slot on Paanchvi Paas. Even the going rates for Paanchvi Paas are higher than IPL’s, according to media buyers involved in deals with the two channels. Advertisers wanting to get on board at the last moment are required to spend Rs3 lakh for a 10-second spot on IPL against Rs4 lakh for Paanchvi Paas.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the News Broadcasters Association, a group of news channels which had announced a “complete boycott” of IPL on Tuesday, said on Thursday the body had reached an agreement with the league and that the ban has been revoked.