Clean Bowled! Brands not doing justice to IPL

27 Apr,2022

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By Sanjeev Kotnala


Sanjeev KotnalaIn 2018, I wondered if IPL could ever be the Super Bowl of India? With the IPL then attracted – it was a natural question. The last few years have demonstrated the expectation was hugely misplaced. 10 team format, suspect performances of marque teams and legends, high media cost, and fragmented audience, IPL has lost the chance of ever being Superbowl of India, at least in terms of advertising, media and communication.


This year ads breaking on IPL have left much to be desired, and I am surprised that some of them even made it to the screen. It places a big question mark over creative, strategic, media and clients and their decision making.


It always makes sense to invest in creativity. And more so when the associated media cost is as high as 14-16 Lak per 10 seconds. Good advertisements help in enhancing media efficiencies and resultant ROI. IPL is still the event to bank on. An excellent creative exposed less frequently is far better than a mediocre creative released more frequently. That’s the truth and not a secret. Everyone knows it, yet only a few seem to believe and act on it.


There is a concern about IPL dropping viewership, and everyone has their list of probable reasons. But, IPL is still the Superbowl equivalent in India but fails to get the brand and creative attention and excitement.


We have had our own share of excellent ads exploiting the opportunity IPL presents. One cannot forget Vodafone ZooZoos, Amazon Chonkpur cricket team, and Flipkart Kids. Initial ads from Dream11 were refreshingly fresh, and Airtel took creative leaps time and again. Even the Cred frenzy we have seen is a good example. However, in 15 years of IPL, creatives that became the talk of the town and a subject of discussion across the nation have been few.


Even the high media cost and sponsor’s share of the time have not stopped brands. Some 84 new brands advertised in the first 30-odd games of IPL. Not much can be said for their creativity. The ads don’t grow on you, but they tire you and fast become a blind spot.


FOGG still makes sense with their multiple situations. Dream11 had a dream until one realised their thinking seemed illogical. MyCircl11 used a creative device for your attention and then fizzled out. Cadbury, with ground staff focus, stands out but is not really a surprise; they have been exploiting opportunities, and IPL was no different. On the other hand, brands like Kamala Pasand, Vimal are mere passengers- you did not expect much other than adding the list of celebrity endorsers. However, the title sponsor’s Tata Neu has also disappointed in its pre-launch and post-launch ads.


It is time for the client and the agency to re-evaluate their strategic investment in the game. Re-evaluate their media vs creative cost and time weights, including the number of edits and films they need to make to properly exploit IPL. The brands need to work extra hard to be counted and associated with the property.


The audience comes to watch their teams and favourite sportsperson perform. Ads will always be an irritant. The challenge remains to create advertisements that the audience will engage with and want to watch. I think only Vodafone ZOOZOOs or Amazon Chonkpur scaled these heights and set the benchmark. And no brand has come near Vodafone in terms of exploiting the opportunity.


All have read the pitch right. Brands in IPL need to be sustainably disruptive with their communication and creative device for desired audience engagement and ROI. And the media data does not really capture this essence, and IPL alone cannot do the magic for the brand.


We have had a few brands attempting creative devices to capture audience imagination, taking disruption to heart. And few like RuPay wasting away the opportunity, and the ads are not hilarious.




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