Hitting a Six- How brands can knock PR issues out of the park with sports

In India, cricket is a religion, and cricketers are Gods for most of its followers. This review examines how IPL set up a trend that is now creating sports stars out of cricketers, and the rise of Indian sports leagues.

According to BARC PreView Data, the IPL’s reach in Hindi-Speaking Markets (HSM) grew by 30% to 79 million on the opening day of the 11th season, as compared to 60 million a year ago.

Even before the dates and schedules for the 11th edition were announced, 20 brands had joined the IPL bandwagon. Every match in IPL today is worth same, even more than the English Premier League (EPL), which is around for more than 2 decades, according to The Telegraph, UK.

As brands prepare for a battle on and off the field, the biggest gainer is Star India, which acquired the IPL’s media rights in 2018 with a consolidated bid of Rs 16,347.5 Cr,  for 5 years and gave every Indian from 8 -80 years  age an unbelievable sportainment (sports+entertainment) atmosphere, whether they are in the stadium or their drawing rooms.

To quote BCCI CEO, Rahul Johri-

“The belief in the tournament signifies, that this union of cricket and entertainment are known as the VIVO IPL has not only provided opportunities to cricketers and fan as in entertainment but also brands with an ideal platform to market themselves and reach out to maximum customers’…”

 Source: Exchange4media

Super Sixes-Going Vernacular!

Leveraging on human insights with a universal appeal across age, sex and gender seem to be the motto of Star India this IPL season. It reached out to 700 Million + viewers across screens in 2018, when its multi-language strategy in paid off with a boost of around 22% in the regional viewership last year.

IPL was broadcasted in 6 languages across 10 network channels that included Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, and Bangla. This year, the network is telecasting matches on as many as 24 channels including  Star Sports channels across languages along with Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi channels.

Going all out across multiple platforms and multi-language feeds have helped in adding recognition to IPL as a pan-India brand, and it also helps regional network attract better advertising revenue targeting the right audience, resulting in better ROI.

How brands can leverage sports in their PR strategy

With a smart mix of the brand promise and relevant and relatable content, the brands are coming forward with creative thinking and coming up with content that can stand out, and reach a broader audience base. IPL is a cricket festival that attracts viewers’ attention for nearly 60 days, a huge window of opportunity for any PR campaign.

Over the years, IPL viewership has steadily grown in both stadium and TV mediums, and most noteworthy aspect is a growing interest from women and children alike. The short format of the game creates loyal audiences, and the perfect match timings, combined with unique packaging of experiences like live music, cheerleaders, food & beverages, hospitality, and merchandise. IPL provides cricket with entertainment and serves as a perfect proposition to build any brand or enhance brand recall across the country.

An organization must evaluate whether the association with any sport resonates with their image and helps to strengthen the brand connect, as no single platform can provide complete desired visibility or ROI for a PR activity.

Looking beyond cricket

Since investments in IPL are high though they work exceptionally well when it comes to changing perceptions, companies can look beyond cricket towards other sports to give stature to their brand. While cricket continues to rein the minds of Indians, there are other sports too that have started getting attention like Kabbadi, Football, Tennis, Hockey, Badminton and marathons/cross country runs. Though it is unrealistic to compare the reach of these sports with that of IPL, but with changing the attitude and consumer preferences, the companies can look at exploring these options as well. The Pro Kabbadi League is one such example, and events like marathon and runs for social causes have become big PR platforms, giving brand continued exposure over time.

Source: The Rise of Indian Sports Leagues- BARC India- https://www.barcindia.co.in/resources/pdf/BARC-Rise%20of%20Indian%20Sports%20Leagues.pdf

Leveraging sports for PR

According to The Economic Times, The first 2 weeks of the IPL tournament had 345 million viewers tuning in from across the country while television viewership delivered 29.8 million average impressions for the first two weeks, registering a growth of 21%.

Tournaments across various sports are valuable team-building exercises for players as well as the public. Moreover, multi-day events significantly boost regional economies. Consider the example of food delivery apps which saw a significant jump in the traffic during match timings.

“We saw a 30% rise in traffic and about 60% of our daily food orders were being placed after 6:30 PM which coincides with the match timings. We also saw a 15% increase in the average basket size during the IPL 2014,” said Rohit Chadha, Co-founder of the popular food delivery app, Foodpanda. Whereas online restaurant guide Zomato saw a 40% rise in its online traffic on the IPL match days in 2014.

Thanks to sporting events like IPL, most sports today have garnered a loyal fan following, and the athletes and sportspersons today have earned themselves the tag of worthy investment for marketers and advertisers. The growing mass appeal of these players and consistent regional support provides small, local brands build brand saliency and sustained growth in positive PR value over the years.

IPL has shown how personalization of experiences at a micro scale, sophisticated geo-targeting, tailored content, and real-time user engagement provides valuable behavioral insights and astounding inputs for future PR strategies, along with strengthening a brand’s position in the market.


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