The Indian Premier League (IPL) seems to have attained the stature of an anthem that the country chants in unison. After all, they say nothing in India gets as many eyeballs as the T20 league. IPL also brings along an array of wonderful ads every year. Brands each year create some spectacular work to take advantage of this uniquely engaging event. That said, last IPL, has not been the same like the past 12 seasons. Owing to the impact of the Covid pandemic on the business, several sectors had to shy away from expensive television advertisements last year. Many categories that had been advertising for years had to cut down on marketing spends due to the slump. Revenue losses and a pause in advertising spends by clients made the going tougher for ad agencies.
But with most sectors finally witnessing recovery this year, will ad agencies score this IPL? Considering that the agency remuneration took a hit in the past few months owing to the pandemic, will the fee this year be back and comparable to what an IPL ad would otherwise fetch?
Time to bat
Creatives contend that this IPL is poised to be like a big battleground for advertisers with several brands back into the business after the lockdown and that pitches are happening in full swing.
Ashish Khazanchi, Managing Partner, Enormous, reveals that the agency has seen nearly all clients back with their usual levels of activities and pre-Covid retainers. “The industry has been seeing a substantial surge of activity. A fair amount of it is linked to IPL. The consumers are returning for most categories and the forecast for the economy has been relatively promising as well after a rather dismal year. The industry would be served well with the activity catalyzed by IPL,” he remarks. Khazanchi observes that the agency works a lot with well-funded start-ups in the digital businesses that have been bullish for the past many months. He notes that these start-ups were active in the last IPL and since most of them have seen substantial returns on their investments, they are going in with more vigour this year.
“We’re certainly bullish on how the industry is returning stronger after a forgettable year. Stronger both in their skill stack and the confidence of the clients in the markets,” he states.
What’s more is that in this edition, Chinese smartphone company Vivo is back as the title sponsor of the tournament, almost a year after the sponsorship deal with the BCCI was suspended amid the India-China border standoff.
Hari Krishnan, CEO, Mullen Lintas, reveals that the revenue funnel for the ad industry is definitely looking more encouraging compared to last year.
“Just like mushrooms that spring up post monsoon, brands are emerging from a forced hibernation. This IPL season is going to the biggest pre-monsoon event and will generate a lot of traction. The brands that have always been active during IPL will continue to be active. Also, the brands that could not get on to the IPL platform last season due to market conditions will be eager to join this season,” he shares.
Krishnan reveals that there are quite a few short-term project-based engagements that have opened up specifically for the IPL season. “Film production following safety norms is helping agencies and production houses. Most projects that were held back, as far as execution is concerned, are back on track. So overall, 2021 has started off with great momentum,” he asserts.
In the previous edition, fantasy gaming company Dream11 came on board as the title sponsor paying 50 per cent less for the privilege, given the market conditions.
Sujata Dwibedy, Group Trading Director, Amplifi India, dentsu, too shares that pitches have started, the momentum is growing and multiple conversations are on. According to her, the first quarter of ad spends are positive. “All these signs are good. The retrieval of the advertising industry is well underway as brands have started to advertise again and categories such as ed-tech, fin-tech, online gaming, e-commerce, among others, seems to have upped their ad spends. Some of the categories that had subdued spends last year are increasing ad spends, launching brands and bringing new variants in the market. Categories like real estate and hospitality have started advertising, though mainly on digital. OOH is also back, print is back fully in the tier 2 towns, picking up in metros. All this indicates that we are on our way to revival,” she remarks.
Dwibedy feels that the India-England series was also a good pre-cursor to the IPL, reviving the optimism in the market. “The year has started on a positive note. We have seen great momentum and brands coming back with full thrust. We have seen heightened queries from our clients. IPL has been a significant platform that uplifts the reach as well as image of a brand. With the digital platform also evolving so much today, IPL provides chance to target specific cohorts, innovations and engagement on a real time basis,” she remarks.
Despite the challenges, the previous edition managed to deliver when it came to viewership: TV monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), said that a record 200 million fans watched the September 19 opener between Mumbai and Chennai Super Kings in Abu Dhabi. In terms of viewership, the IPL even outperformed some of the pay-per-view matches of the Premier League in Britain. BARC tweeted before the playoffs that the league had clocked seven billion viewing minutes, up 28% from last year, after the first 41 matches.
Nisha Singhania, Co- Founder, Infectious Advertising, observes that while there were budget cuts last year, most clients are back to spending what they were and agency remunerations are back on track. “IPL has always seen big campaigns with big budgets. IPL is a fanatic property that brands will want to capitalise on. We have seen a huge surge in pitches and hopefully will have some good announcements to make soon. The momentum is on,” Singhania asserts.
Last season, Disney+Hotstar had signed around 300 advertisers and had earned ad revenues in excess of Rs 300 crore despite the tournament being put behind the paywall.
According to Sujay Kar- Group Director and Lead – Commerce, VMLY&R SEA and India, there is a rise in competition, so agency fees would still have to absorb an impact. “The overall tilt towards marketing excellence would drive the average fees closer to pre-Covid levels. IPL’s impact will be key in defining the trends for the next few quarters until festive season arrives, so more brands would look for excellence in their execution for better RoIs and will have a more optimistic marketing budget. That will bring emphasis on the craft and strategic acumen of the agency, apart from pricing, leading to more business for top agencies,” says Kar.
With consumer sentiment picking up and advertisers opening up their purse strings this season, the ad industry certainly seems optimistic about IPL 2021. Whether they manage to really score, only time will tell.
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