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BCCI had said the choice of the sponsor will not be based solely on the highest bid, but Dream11 did top the tables. (Mint)
BCCI had said the choice of the sponsor will not be based solely on the highest bid, but Dream11 did top the tables. (Mint)

Gaming firm is the winner of cricket’s biggest title deal

  • Dream11 bags title sponsorship rights after Vivo exits
  • The Dream11 mobile app is on Apple’s App Store but not on Google’s Play Store as the latter bars cash contests on its platform

Fantasy gaming platform Dream11 on Tuesday won the title sponsorship for the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) for 222 crore, almost half of what India’s cricket board would have got had Chinese phone maker Vivo stayed as the title sponsor.

Amid anti-China sentiments following the Ladakh border clash where 20 Indian soldiers died, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Vivo agreed to pause the sponsorship for this year. Vivo had agreed to pay 440 crore per year for the five-year deal. Interestingly, Dream11, which replaces Vivo, itself is backed by Tencent Holdings of China.

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“Dream11 has quoted 222 crore as bid. They have been supporting cricket and other sports in the country. The firm has been associated with IPL as an associate sponsor for two years and will now represent the league as the title sponsor," said Brijesh Patel, chairman of the IPL governing council.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had previously said the choice of the sponsor will not be based solely on the highest bid, but Dream11 did place the highest bid.

The firm outbid Unacademy and Byju’s, which were also in the race for the sponsorship. Considered one of the leading contenders, Tata Sons pulled out at the last moment and did not place the bid.

On 14 August, BCCI had received expressions of interest (EoI) from six companies—Dream11, Tata Sons, Patanjali Ayurved, Reliance Jio, Byju’s and Unacademy—for IPL sponsorship. If the tournament is delayed or postponed due to any reason, Dream11 will still remain the sponsor till 2020 end. The 13th edition of IPL will be held in the United Arab Emirates from 19 September.

Harish Bijoor, brand strategy specialist and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., noted that there is a little bit of China and Chinese money in a whole host of businesses in India, but since most investments are back-end ownership leverages, consumers seldom care about it.

“Fantasy cricket itself is a big play in India. Therefore, IPL 2020 is a big win for Dream11. The company will draw a lot more out of this title sponsorship deal. For IPL, this deal shall represent the best money it could harvest out of the bids in a fire-sale moment," he noted.

The brand value of IPL stood at $6.8 billion in 2019, up 7% from 2018, according to consulting firm Duff and Phelps.

According to Tuhin Mishra, managing director of Baseline Ventures, a sports management firm, this win gives Dream11 the ownership position of the league. It is expected that IPL viewership will be high this year, which will also translate into higher engagement on the Dream11 platform.

“IPL is a global property and Dream11 has global ambitions; so, this is a huge opportunity for the online gaming platform to leverage as this edition of IPL is much awaited by viewers and other stakeholders. It makes their association with India cricket even stronger. As the Indian online gaming space is getting cluttered, Dream11 will certainly have an edge over other players through IPL," he added.

Founded in 2008 by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth, Dream11 is a brand owned by sports technology firm Dream Sports. Cricketer M.S. Dhoni is the brand ambassador for Dream 11, a unicorn backed by Steadview Capital and Kalaari Capital, among others.

The Dream11 mobile app is on Apple’s App Store but not on Google’s Play Store as the latter bars cash contests on its platform.

So, Android users have to download the app from the company’s website. A disclaimer on the Android phone, however, warns them that it could be unsafe to download the app.

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