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In India, IPL reigns supreme

For 17 seasons, the Indian Premier League carnival has not only captivated audiences but has also commandeered the wheel of the Indian sports industry and, perhaps, also its advertising vehicle. According to a report in the The Hindu BusinessLine, the franchises in the IPL are expected to witness a growth of between 15 and 20 per cent in sponsorship revenues compared to last season.

“For the advertisers, IPL is like an advertising festival. IPL, despite delivering four per cent TRP, is still the biggest show on earth, at least in India. It is a show where you get both men and women, young and old, and it cuts across income groups,” says Ambi Parameswaran, Independent Brand Strategist and former CEO of FCB Ulka.

The five-time champion Mumbai Indians, after breaching the ₹100-crore mark in sponsorship last season, has brought in 26 partners for 2024, swelling its coffers by a further 20 per cent. The broadcasters, too, have benefitted as Disney Star, which earned between ₹2000 and ₹2500 crore during the last IPL, has signed on 15 sponsors, while Viacom18, the digital partner, boasts a tally of 18. Interestingly, digital media spending in sports saw a 40 per cent rise in 2023, while television witnessed a 16 per cent decline.

According to the ‘India Sports Sponsorship Report’ by GroupM ESP, the Indian sports market has grown 6.5 times since the inception of the IPL in 2008. From a modest ₹2,423 crore in 2008, it has ballooned to ₹15,766 crore in 2023. With cricket contributing to 87 per cent of this, the IPL continues to be the pied piper of commercialisation, contributing upwards of ₹3000 crore in sponsorship spend (including central and franchise).

The 10-team League’s brand value has swelled by 433 per cent post astronomical media rights sales in 2022 — ₹23,575 crore for television and ₹23,758 crore for digital for 410 matches. With each match valued at ₹118.5 crore, the IPL is second only to the National Football League in the USA (₹141 crore per match). The sophomore year of the Women’s Premier League, too, is expected to have generated ₹115 crore in sponsorship — 50 from central sponsorship and 65 from teams — a slight jump from the ₹110 crore last year.

According to the first edition of the Ormax ‘Sports Audience Report: 2024’, cricket, football, and kabaddi are the top three viewed sports in the country, with an audience base of 612, 305, and 280 million, respectively.

Non-cricket sports, however, despite India’s phenomenal success at the Hangzhou Asian Games (107 medals) and Asian Para Games (111) in 2023, saw a one per cent decline (₹2,065 crore from ₹2,094 crore in 2022) in spending in 2023. The drop, perhaps, can be attributed to the bursting of the EdTech bubble, which had contributed significantly to the sports industry in 2022, including Byju’s ₹316 crore deal with FIFA for the Qatar World Cup.

With the Paris Olympics and Paralympics looming on the horizon and global football events like the EUROs and Copa America, the expectations are high — both from the Indian athletes to improve the 2021 medal tally and the advertisers to bridge the disparity. The Indian Olympic Association recently signed a first-of-its kind ₹10 crore deal with Yes Bank as its official banking partner, and more such associations are expected to follow.

“Things are slowly changing, but this year you will not see a dramatic upswing in advertising for non-cricket sports despite the Olympics. There will be one or two nationalistic brands like Amul and Tata who will put money on the Olympics while most of the others will save it for cricket,” says Parameswaran.

Ultimately, in India, where cricket is king, the IPL reigns supreme.

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