Why hasn’t IPL blossomed into a marquee opportunity for creative agencies?

28 May,2014

By Shephali Bhatt


One is a three-hour long football match; the other is a game of cricket played between various teams over a period of 45 days. One is a 48-year-old event, the other will conclude its seventh year in a couple of days. There’s absolutely no comparison between the US’ National Football League aka Super Bowl and controversy’s favourite child IPL (Indian Premier League).


Yet, at some level, IPL is India’s answer to American Super Bowl. Purely basis the level of popularity that a single sport can enjoy in a country as diverse as theirs and ours. For marketers, these are two games that give them the golden chance of reaching out to a whole nation at once. Now would be a good time to throw in some numbers: Super Bowl XLVII had garnered 108 million viewers last year whereas IPL 6 registered 100 million viewers. This year, Super Bowl XLVIII was viewed by 112 million people on TV. Those figures are a strong testimony of why a 30-second spot for the game aired on 2 February was priced at $4 million. IPL and Super Bowl mirror each other in another aspect – there are natural breaks between the game, allowing marketers to sneak in their message. And that makes advertising around the two games supremely significant.


There’s hardly any Super Bowl viewer who wouldn’t smile at the sight of a Budweiser Clydesdale or not get gooseflesh after watching Clint Eastwood in Chrysler’s ‘It’s halftime in America.’ Super Bowl ads are looked forward to as much as the game itself, if not more. Even the digital natives of our land keep scouting for Super Bowl ads during the first week of February. Why then have Indian advertisers not been able to create a similar buzz for advertising around IPL. The first year of IPL witnessed the birth of ZooZoos, a character Vodafone created specifically for the game. Post ZooZoos, one hasn’t seen any brand going an extra mile to produce an iconic piece of communication solely for an IPL season. It’s not that the ROI is weak, the numbers are for everyone to see. To add to that, IPL is one sport event that makes for family viewing.


“People still remember the Max New York Life ad we released during IPL-1 (the one where a wife enters her house frantically looking for her husband Sanju, only to find him lying on a recliner in the balcony and assuming he’s dead). I don’t think it would’ve had this huge an impact on the audience had it not been released during IPL,” recounts Satbir Singh, CCO and managing partner of Havas Worldwide (India), the then agency for Max Life.


What’s amiss is perhaps the euphoria among the advertisers and agencies to use this event as an opportunity to showcase their best. Time is not really a hindrance here as opposed to the regular assignments. “The slots are booked 6-7 months in advance so the agencies have enough time at hand to create outstanding ads,” states Rohit Gupta, president of MSM (Set Max and Sony Six are official broadcast partners for IPL). One thing that Stuart Elliott, ad columnist with The New York Times, observed during Super Bowl this year was that brands were releasing their ads online, days before the game. Good way of creating build up rather than keeping the suspense like the previous years. As a result, the social mentions had a marked rise – multiple Facebook shares and Twitter allowed the hashtags to thrive a lot longer than two hours post the game.


Maybe there’s a lesson for Indian advertisers who fail to release their ads in time even when they have a full 45 days to leverage on. “Brands releasing their ads when IPL is 15 days into the game has become a norm now. Delay doesn’t do anyone any good,” T Gangadhar, MD of MEC India points out.


To keep the creative fresh and unique year-on- year is a challenge, says Ronita Mitra, SVP – brand communication and insights at Vodafone India. Yet they’ve been trying to do distinctive activities on-ground which includes enabling people to nominate their fan friends and give them a chance to meet the winning captain. What would make a brand stand apart though is not offers, for there will be a dozen other brands doing the same. What IPL advertising badly needs is another shot of ZooZoo-like creative by many more brands. If IPL is India’s answer to Super Bowl, it’s only fair that advertising around it match up.


Source:The Economic Times

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