AdStand: The IPL Circus

Somehow IPL has become important property in marketing calendar of many brands. This year despite the WorldT20 championship being hosted in India, will this mean that the excitement for IPL will wane? Or the audience’s love for slam bam cricket will stay alive after the world cup is over. The brand IPL is doping its best to generate excitement with a new brand ad, and with the countdown across variety of team handles. The teams haven’t started their own blitzkrieg, but I suspect the teams are getting ready and in next 5 days we will see all the teams building frenzy.

 First the new brand commercial from IPL. It is an indulgent introduction to this edition of IPL. There are giant floats, supermanish flying players, daredevils that jump out of bikes and variety of other stunts that will make you feel that the great circus from olden times have come to town. The only thing missing from the circus plot are some flying carpets, leaping lions and dancing elephants. It hasn’t been shot in India, and there is hardly anything either Indian or Cricket in the commercial. What has stood out for the TVC is the music which seems to be a Malayalam song from past, written by a standup comic and is supposed to mean nothing. Gibberish to go with senseless visuals seems like the perfect match. If anything the music is apt in the TVC.

Then there are two long radio commercials that are playing on radio. One is meant for those who hear the commentary in English and the other for those who hear it in Hindi. The two radio ads are snippets of commentaries from celebrity commentators strung together with neither a thought nor a theme. To top it, it looks like the small child discovered sound studio, dials and controls and loved what he did as the first project. I wish I can say to L Sivaramakrishnan “tricky one, up goes the finger” on this one. To top it the frequency on the radio stations of the spots seems to suggest that the brand decided that muscle is what matters; there is no sense of planning or scheduling. As an audience, there is no point on hearing the two radio ads, back-to-back and then again back-to-back.

The third ad is from Hotstar, asking the “Digital Duniya ke Dildaar” to watch the matches on Hotstar. Hotstar has been building its affinity with cricket for sometime now. It has spent a lot of money to build the partnership in the WorldT20 championship, and it is continuing the effort with IPL. There is only one question I have after watching the ad. Why is it that only the young boys and girls have a phone that can stream Hotstar? Why is it that mothers or fathers or uncles and aunts and even older brothers and sisters and teachers and waiters have no idea of Hotstar?

Over next one month, there is a lot of IPL based communication we will get to watch. Theme songs, social media promotions, twitter trending battles, Instagram feed and may be even Snapchat stories. I wish that ones that are being incubated are far more engaging and entertaining than what we have seen till now.

IPL circus is here, and I guess it will be difficult to escape it

Original published here:


IPL 4 and why it failed

IPL 4 started sometimes in March, CSK have won, Dhoni’s luck held and the carnival came to an end sometimes in May.  Over 120 brands were involved in this year’s IPL, chasing a dwindling audience. For the first time stadiums had unsold seats in T20 matches.  For the first time when the TV ratings started to slip, they kept on slipping. Something went seriously wrong with this years’ IPL.

True the quality of cricket was not up to scratch, true that the matches lacked fizzle, but the formula was the same. The same carnivals feel, the same cheer leading squads, the same loud IPL bugle, and yet the fizz went out.

This time though there was one additional factor that was missing in last three IPLs. This year there was Twitter, and the IPL was promoting twitter in a big way. The commentators were tweeting, the players were tweeting, and mercifully the viewers’ too were tweeting. Twitter possibly is the best way to know, what may have gone wrong. I pulled out the following as what was trending on Twitter through out the IPL 4

Trend 1: The biggest trend was on team branding and team fandom. The most obvious players moved out their respective teams and donned new colours were a big challenge for the viewers. People actively commented on the difficulty they faced in following their favourite players. Even the new captains were a big issue. The team owners too did not do much to increase their fan base. This year the engagement of the city with their teams was at a low. This is a prime reason why many seats were empty in stadium

Trend 2: Lalit Modi was certainly missed by the twitterati. There were questions on scheduling the matches, there were questions on ability to create and sustain hype, and certainly the pizzazz was missing from this years’ IPL. Schedule of This years’ IPL came under very harsh scrutiny by the twitterati. Lalit Modi was generally hailed as the true hero of IPL!

Trend 3: The second most comments were on the fairness of matches. This trend though is a little complex to analyze, as losing teams fans could always question the results. Yet there was a pattern to a large number of matches. The supposedly weaker team won from the supposedly larger team. The fact the RCB and CSK will make to finals and CSK will win was doing rounds on Twitter for a long time

Trend 4: The quality of cricket that was dished out was an issue. Though some of the new players had sporadic following, driven by how they played. Paul Valthaty, Rahul Sharma, Bharat Chipli, Badrinath were some players who gained sustainable fan following. And despite the rise of a few new stars, the quality of game was always criticized. If the league has to have a future, it needs to work hard on improving the quality of the game

Trend 5: If there was one player who dominated the Tweet world, that it was Chris Gayle. RCB post tells that he hit an astonishing 100 fours and sixes in the tournament. Since the time he came, his murderous assault on bowlers, and his miserly spell in bowling was always the toast of twitter world. Clearly the WI loss was IPL gain

Trend 6: Individual teams had very poor fan following, and that is a clear indicator of low engagement of teams with twitter population. Mumbai Indians has just 185 followers, Delhi has 4000, and the new comer Pune has 3000. KKR wins this hands down with over 44000 followers. CSK has 13000, and RCB 18000 followers. Looks like the average twitterati is not keen to connect with the official team pages

The Twitter analysis has clear pointers. If the brand has to thrive, it has to organize the event better, has to improve the quality of game, and above all be transparent.

The novelty is now over, and the thrill has been missing. IPL5 has survival issues at stake


Future of IPL

When I did my last article about IPL, it looked like everyone wanted to be a part of the IPL gravy train. Then the controversy broke over the Kochi bid and a string of bad news about the administration that ran the event, and even more damaging reports of financial improprietary. To top it, there are even rumors that the matches were fixed and nothing seemed right about IPL. Expectedly media went to town debating the future of IPL. If media owned IPL, it would have been shut down, and the entire cricketing fraternity made to disown the game.
The real inkling of what the future of IPL may hold was answered on the evening when the final was being played. The stadium was packed to the gills, the noise was deafening, the players had the intensity and cricket being played was top class.
So in midst of the entire circus that seemed to say that IPL is over, and there may not be IPL4, the average cricket viewers have given a very clear indicator that IPL is here to stay.
Are there lessons for us to draw from the mess? What is it that is keeping the event alive? What is it that will keep the brand IPL going from strength to strength? This mess of IPL may give us clear answers in managing a brand in crisis
Continue to build credibility: the real reason why IPL is able to draw the crowd into stadiums is the belief that cricket on display is fair and is played with the right passion. It is clear in this moment of crisis that the game is not owned by the administrators or team owners or even the board, the game is owned by the players. It is the credibility of superstars of cricket that is keeping the game alive. So when the game’s biggest icon says, the game will recover the whole cricket loving public agrees
Be authentic: Any brand to create a long term following needs to be honest and open about self. The consumers constantly search for experiences that are real and authentic. The real reason why the brand IPL took off was because it promised an authentic experience. There is no doubt that the current spate of bad news will affect the following of the game in the long run. It definitely will survive this crisis, but recovery from another round of bad news may not be swift and painless
Create high standards around the brand: while credibility and authenticity are the tactics to build a successful brand strategy, there is no going away from offering extremely high standard quality and service. The more the consumers feel that the brand takes itself seriously, the more they would trust and follow a brand. High standard of service and quality is the best way to generate a buzz. It’s not the fan pages on Facebook, or the blog on website that creates the buzz, the brand generates it by offering high quality
Involve the followers: IPL is a unique brand where the users interact with the brand for just 45 days in a year. For the rest of the year, it is a dormant brand. This is a very challenging situation for the brand, especially when it is bogged down by scandals of all kinds. This becomes critical for the brand to constantly ‘hear’ from its followers and make a virtue of it. There is no better way to fight bad news than to generate good news of your own.
Well may be the league will have to put its plan to get 300 brands in its fold for a hold. May be just for a while.
Published at

Maths Of IPL

Currently there are 88 players playing in IPL, and guess how many brands are involved with them?  There are 125 brands involved with these 88 players. These are brands who are team sponsors, beverage sponsors, insurance sponsors, jersey sponsors, smile sponsors and even a university sponsor! Now that’s not where the count ends, add to it the title sponsor, the five television telecast sponsors, the strategic time out sponsor, the catch sponsor, and brands whose ads are telecast inside the stadium on giant screen, and brands that have taken the perimeter boards on the boundary, and the branding on the blimp above the stadium and the online video streaming partner, and the sixer sponsor and the four sponsor. We are looking at over 150 brands that are chasing 88 players

Is that fair?

Why is it that all brands are chasing the IPL bandwagon? The basic rule of brand communication is to do your best to avoid clutter. Brand managers work hard to ensure that they are in an environment where there is less clutter for their brand to stand out and connect better. IPL, though is different. Afterall there are 88 players and almost everyone across the world is only watching IPL, if not on TV than on you tube, and if not on you tube than in theatres. The brands have no choice but to be on IPL. How can you miss out on the good thing?

I must add here that empirical evidence is really against me at this stage. While IPL is generating good numbers, the numbers are not overwhelmingly huge. And while GEC are showing decline, the decline is not alarming.

How can than the brands miss on India’s biggest sports carnival? Here are some ideas and innovations that will go a long way in ensuring that 150 brands become 300, and the audience cheers for each brand.

There are sponsors who sponsor fours and sixes. The tourney should now have brands that sponsor singles, twos, and threes as well. And while we are at it lets get a sponsor for every dot ball and for every maiden over. In fact the most expensive sponsorship should be for the maiden over, as you are not going to get many of them. Imagine how well will the brand stand in clutter and what kind of recall it will generate.

Now let’s look at the player jersey’s. There is a lot of scope here. While the upper half of uniform is fairly branded, the lower half is fairly devoid of any branding. That is really a precious waste of advertising space. Especially when the fast bowler comes charging down to bowl and the camera pans him, there are large gaps that you can see.

The umpires too are feeling left out, as the players get to don a lot of brands, but the umpires have only one brand. This will create an imbalance that will hurt the umpires in the long run. They need to be enriched and empowered. They are waiting for brands to be associated with them. With just two umpires on field who have to constantly run across the pitch they are very valuable moving advertising mediums.

But the real waste of space is the ground itself. How unfair is to have just five logos on the ground? Imagine how much value can be unlocked by just opening the ground for brands to occupy? Imagine the revenue that can be generated if 100 square feet of area s given to each brand on ground, we can easily fit in 50 more brands.

And we love watching ads. We cannot do without our daily dose of ads. Before the start of ecvery match, we must screen at least 15 minutes of ads on the giant screen, and the cheerleaders should cheer every ad in their unique style.

You see, it’s not difficult to increase the number of brands involved with IPL, after all why should any brand miss out?

We at Dentsu recently did a very large study on IPL just before it commenced, and came up with some startling findings. After two years of high octane action, the recall of principle sponsor of IPL does not cross half way mark. For most teams the fans don’t know the principle sponsor, or worst their full names. People are watching the games, following the stars, but are they connecting with brands?

May be its time for the brand managers to evaluate the issue of being associated with IPL with new perspective. Either you own it in a big way, or don’t venture near it.

Not 300, may be just 30

Published at in April 2010