Mumbai: As an advertiser, if there’s one thing that you can bank on in India, it is cricket. And, the most recent addition to the school of thought is car maker Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which has opted to be a ground sponsor for the ninth and 10th seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the popular Twenty20 tourney.
Maruti will join Vodafone India, Yes Bank and Freecharge as ground sponsor for the Vivo IPL 2016, and will have its branding placed prominently in stadia, on perimeter walls, on the scoreboard, among other areas.
The ground sponsorship and association with IPL this year, a first for the company, will essentially be used to advertise the latest launch from its stable, the Vitara Brezza, Maruti’s first compact sports utility vehicle. The car was launched earlier this month.
“The Indian Premier League is a sport that has long been associated with glamour and eyeballs. And, the (brand) positioning of the Vitara Brezza is in the glamour and performance space, which makes it an ideal association to reach those target audiences," said Sanjeev Handa, vice-president, marketing, Maruti Suzuki.
“There is nothing better than the IPL as a launch pad, because the sheer reach and scale the property can bring is not provided by anyone else," said T. Gangadhar, managing director at media agency MEC South Asia.
To be sure, this is not the first time that the company has invested in sports to promote its brands.
Maruti has been associated with properties such as the Indian Super League for its brands Alto and Swift, the International Tennis Premier League for S-Cross, and golf tournament, the BT ProAm, for S-Cross.
While Handa refused comment on the investment being made on IPL ground sponsorship, he maintained that the company’s investments in sports associations had increased by 20% since last year and constituted around 12% of its total ad spend in the current year.
“Our focus is to associate with the youth, and with sports, the connection is instant," said Handa, who maintained that while the company was concerned about viewer fatigue, owing to the back-to-back schedules of major cricket tournaments being telecast before the IPL, he maintained that the viewership for the IPL had been growing year-on-year.
“The tournament will have 60 matches over 45 days with eight teams, two of which are new teams. And considering that the top performers Rajasthan Royals and the Chennai Super Kings will not be playing this year, we are expecting a heightened interest (in seeing which team will emerge as the top contender). Moreover, the tournament will be telecast during the summer holidays with prime time slots," he said.
The company has also chosen to be associated with properties in the Hindi and English general entertainment space, for its brands. “Whether it is the Oscars, the Grammys or premium shows such as Quantico, we have been associated with virtually every key property," said Handa.
The company launched the Vitara Brezza early in March and will now see two more launches in the festive season. The new brand campaign for the Brezza will be launched “with or around" the IPL.
While associations with motorsports have been part of the DNA for most automobile brands, several companies are increasingly looking to associate with other sports to draw attention to the brands.
More recently, Japanese automaker Nissan Motors signed an eight-year deal with the International Cricket Council (ICC) till 2023, confirming Nissan as a global sponsor of cricket’s international tournaments, including the ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC Champions Trophy and ICC World Twenty20, among others.
Tata Motors on its part recently signed up footballer Lionel Messi for a long-term association as its global brand ambassador to promote and endorse its passenger vehicles globally.