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New ad trends emerge after initial fall in IPL viewers, brands eye 2023-27 media rights

Ad & media planning experts say popular teams' lack of success and audience fatigue could be factors behind dip in viewership. But landscape is changing due to other reasons too.

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New Delhi: Advertisers have been keeping a close eye on the viewership of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022, since it registered a 33 per cent decline in its opening week.

While the ratings eventually recovered as the season hit its stride, and IPL chairman Brijesh Patel said the dip won’t have a lasting impact, fluid viewership ratings could cost the league in terms of advertising revenue in the upcoming media rights auction for 2023-27, according to advertising experts and media planners. And that’s something advertisers are watching keenly.

The spokesperson of a prominent brand associated with this year’s IPL, speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, claimed brands like his have sought some compensation from Disney Star, the host broadcasters of the IPL, after the downward slide in viewership.

“This year, advertisements were hiked 15 per cent more than last year, and this may look like a major loss. It is not certain that we will withdraw our investments or lessen them next season, but if this trend remains throughout, then we might think about it,” the spokesperson said.

ThePrint approached the media teams of the IPL and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) over the phone, but both refused to comment on the dip in viewership during the initial days of this year’s league.

However, former BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry told ThePrint that these viewership trends are an “aberration”, adding that the IPL brand has nothing to worry about. 

“This data is not the penultimate picture of what is happening now. We should still wait and see how the viewership transforms, if and when it does. This temporary aberration won’t have a long term impact for the BCCI,” Chaudhry said.

“We should also keep in mind that board exams clashed with the games, so that is likely to have had an impact. Having said that, organisations which intend to take the risk and make long-term decisions based on this data, it is their decision.”

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Team loyalty, behaviour changes post Covid

Sandeep Goyal, managing director of ad agency Rediffusion, explained this dip in viewership by pointing out a big problem with the IPL in its last 14 editions. 

“The biggest problem of the IPL has been its failure to build a strong fandom at the team level. Only two teams have built a strong fan following — Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians. When your two best teams are in the doldrums, interest levels are bound to drop,” Goyal told ThePrint, pointing to the fact that CSK and MI are both at the bottom of the 10-team table this season.

Media planners in India also attribute the dip in viewership during this IPL season’s initial days to behavioural changes prompted by the end of lockdowns. The league, temporarily suspended in 2021 after some players tested positive for Covid-19, resumed later in the year in the UAE.

With no Covid-related restrictions in place, many viewers now have the option of going out and watching IPL matches in pubs and restaurants. This is why ratings surged once the ongoing season picked up momentum, making Star Sports the most viewed channel in the country.

“The last two IPLs took place in the middle of the pandemic when viewership increased across platforms. Some degree of correction was to be expected. This IPL follows very soon after the second IPL of last year, and may be looking at a degree of audience fatigue,” said Kavita Shenoy, founder and CEO of Voiro, a firm that monetises infrastructure for media businesses.

“However, astute advertisers will always pay for efficiency and effectiveness. As long as advertisers continue to be convinced of the value of the IPL audience, advertising money will continue to be allocated to IPL,” she added.

Brand value

The struggle of aspiring cricketers who make it to the league is a core ingredient of IPL’s popularity, optimistic media planners say. In a country like India, they say, cricket will always have the support of viewers, even if they tune out temporarily.

“Talented players from across the country, who have had tough lives and are now claiming fame because of their skills, have helped the brand value,” said Rammohan Sundaram, country head and managing partner of integrated media at marketing communications and services firm, DDB Mudra Group.

“Umran Malik from Jammu is one such example of an extraordinary story coming out of the IPL. Imagine if he is trained further and plays international cricket… it will be a breakthrough. Indian viewers are aware of this pattern and it is evident that they appreciate it,” he added.

Target groups

According to a report by TAM Media Research, 84 new brands advertised on IPL broadcasts over the course of the first 31 matches.

Apart from Tata, which is the title sponsor for IPL 2022 and 2023, legacy brands were nowhere on this list, consisting primarily of startups like Meesho, or brands targeting youngsters like Spotify and Fogg, the report pointed out.

Current trends indicate that visibility is not the only metric “mainline brands” or older companies consider when weighing their investment, as opposed to many startups who, without caring much for viewership, invest in these leagues for mere visibility.

Sundaram explains that younger audiences began their IPL viewing journey on OTT platforms, so one can expect TV to be a secondary focus now.

“An entire generation of India has missed the TV bus and has boarded streaming. This was possible because the internet now is super cheap, unlike before. Therefore, advertisement firms have also embraced newer strategies to keep their visibility intact,” he explained.

“For example, legacy firms will be more interested in the younger audience, so that they maintain their brand value. But startups in the edtech and fintech space will be inclined toward acquiring the older generations who rely on television for their information,” Sundaram added.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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