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Millions of Indians tuning into cricket, football and kabaddi tournaments through the year have sparked heavy spending by well-funded startups in sports sponsorships and advertising.

According to estimates by media buyers, startups now account for 10% in India’s advertising expenses, up from 7% two years ago, with overall advertising in the country expected to touch 80,000 crore by the end of 2021.

Startups now account for 10% of India's ad spends, up from 7% two years ago
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Startups now account for 10% of India's ad spends, up from 7% two years ago

“The percentage growth is high for these new-age companies owing to a low base. However, their contribution to the overall adex has been steadily increasing each year," said Sujata Dwibedy, group trading director, Amplifi, Dentsu.

Digital stock brokerage Upstox recently beat Groww to become the official partner of the Indian Premier League (IPL), joining startups such as fantasy sports platform Dream11, e-payments firm Cred and edtech startup Unacademy, which are also sponsoring the T20 tournament with around 50 crore per year. Clearly, cricket continues to be the first choice of startups.

According to Dwibedy, the spike in awareness a brand gets through IPL cannot be compared with any other media property in the country, making it an optimum investment option for new companies.

“We have seen that in case of Cred and other new brands in the previous IPL season. Many new companies and brands have leveraged IPL as a stepping stone for a successful launch in the market. It makes sense for these startups to opt for IPL for a 60-match window, instead of being on any other media property where the build-up is pretty slow," she added.

“One in three ad dollars is going in cricket, where most of these new-age companies advertise. New categories such as online gaming and edtech have driven the adex in 2020 and is expected to do well this year," said Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media, a Mumbai-based marketing and communications agency.

Edtech firm Byju’s spent 400-500 crore in advertising last year while gaming firm Dream11 spent 350-400 crore and My11Circle spent 150-250 crore, as per a Pitch Madison Advertising report published in February. Digital and television dominated ad spends.

According to Star India, edtech and fantasy gaming emerged as the most advertised category during IPL 2020, followed by fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), and auto and ancillary (such as tyres and lubricants) companies.

“There is enough data to prove the benefits of associating with sports, with exposure being the prime highlight. This provides emerging brands and startups that are looking to maximize reach, brand awareness and overall brand recall an opportunity to go the extra mile and grab major attention," said Star India.

Meanwhile, the Indian Super League (ISL) has sponsors including Dream11 and Policybazaar, while Pro Kabbadi League has online pharmacy platform and Dream11.

Unacademy said that apart from IPL, the company is currently working on Olympics and other branded content-led partnerships across different forms of sports.

“India loves sports and the youth follows it closely, which is why new-age companies advertise on sports. For us, it becomes important because sports and education go hand in hand, making it a perfect fit," said Karan Shroff, chief marketing officer, Unacademy.

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