Consumer durable major Usha International is the official partner of Mumbai Indians for the seventh consecutive year. However, the 2020 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) will be altogether a different ball game for the consumer durable company.
Unlike the previous seasons when the company used to buy out stands in the stadiums to enable its trade partners to watch a Mumbai Indians match, get them a photo opportunity with the star players or get their employees to be part of the toss, the pandemic restrictions this year have forced the company to take a lot of its usual promotional activities to the virtual world.
Its trade partners and their families this year will engage with the Mumbai Indians stars over a Zoom call. The company has also planned a host of online contests in association with Mumbai Indians and the winners would be gratified with a Usha product. While its employees will not be part of the toss, the toss mat would have the Usha logo. "The pandemic has forced us to become more creative," says Komal Mehra, Head (Sports Initiatives and Associations), Usha International.
The BCCI, says Mehra, has set up LED walls in the stadium where the branding of sponsors would be prominently displayed. "Usha's logo will be there for two overs on the LED wall," she further explains. The first ball of the 2020 IPL season will be bowled on Saturday and fans can well expect a lot of virtual surprises.
While Usha is a classic example of a traditional brand getting aggressive in the virtual space, digital and social media buzz, in general, is going to be significantly higher this season. "Even before the tournament has started, the digital engagements are 70-80 per cent of what we had seen last year," points out Siddharth Raman, COO, Sportz Interactive.
Social media is already abuzz with videos of players coping with social distancing and other COVID safety norms. "Videos of players of rivals teams having a chat standing 20-feet away have gone viral," says Raman.
Fintech company CRED, a first-time advertiser and the 'official partner' of IPL, which is sponsoring the 'power-play', would be offering cash-back to all its members, who pay their credit card bills when the power play is on.
At the end of every game, CRED will reward the highest bill-payer the prize money of Rs 100,000 during each match. The award ceremony will be virtual and showcased on a 'virtual fan box' at the stadium. "We are focused on creating rewarding experiences intertwined with each game that viewing audiences can enjoy from the comfort of their homes. Because we have been creating these types of digital experiences for our members long before the IPL, we believe the newfound focus on digital is an advantage that we can stand to gain from," says Trupti Shetty, Lead, Growth and Engagement, CRED.
The 2020 IPL also has a host of first-time advertisers. Apart from CRED, e-commerce platforms such as BigBasket and Myntra have also made their debut in IPL this year, along with a host of online gaming and edtech companies.
This edition of IPL will also see a host of challenger brands such as Levista Coffee and APIS India, which have partnered with Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, respectively.
Interestingly, none of these challenger brands is advertising on Star Sports. Since IPL will be viewed at home on TV or OTT, S Shriram, Vice-President, Marketing and Sales, Levista Coffee, expects coffee consumption to touch new heights.
Therefore, instead of investing on expensive air-time on Star Sports or even Hotstar, the three-year-old brand has chosen to create limited edition CSK packs of Levista Coffee with images of the CSK players on the pack. "We can't afford Star Sports, we are instead doing a lot of digital content. We are also doing a TVC in local Tamil channels as our intent is not to reach out to cricket fanatics but 18-45-year-old middle-class consumers at large," explains Shriram.
APIS India, on the other hand, has chosen to advertise on Hotstar and has also tied up with music streaming platform, Gaana. While the APIS logo would be displayed on the LED walls in the stadium, the brand's logo would also find a place on the helmets of the Rajasthan Royals players. "We are also creating branded digital content by associating with the players of the RR team. We are planning an influencer marketing exercise too," says Pankaj Mishra, CEO, APIS India.
With advertising and sponsorship rates (of the franchises) being 30-40 per cent lower than usual, IPL 2020 has come as a boon for first-time advertisers. Since it's going to be the first live sports event after months of no sports, it is expected to set new viewership records, therefore a great opportunity for brands to reach out to a large expanse of consumers.
Broadcaster Disney-Star is known to have sold over 85 per cent (the broadcaster has been selling IPL inventory this year at the 2019 price of Rs 12 lakh for a 10-second ad) of its inventory and hopes to sell the remaining inventory at a premium. Hotstar, the digital partner, is known to have sold out its entire IPL inventory.