The Indian Premier League’s (IPL) brand value has soared beyond the cricketing spectrum and so has that of the teams. One such team is Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), which is looking at going beyond the boundaries of cricket.
While it claims to be the third most popular sports franchise on social media globally, RCB is certainly pushing the envelope when it comes to new initiatives. It is organising a Leaders Meet:India, later this month for stakeholders in sports across the world and they are also in the midst of a series of new launches across categories like merchandise, fitness and F&B.
It is indeed the best time to be a part of the sports movement in India. Like Laura McQueen, managing director of Leaders in Sport, a global sports events, community and engagement platform, told Storyboard18, “It's evident that the international market recognises significant opportunities in India, driven by its scale and growing economy. The enthusiasm from those we've engaged with suggests a genuine excitement to come to India, connect with people on the ground, and gain a deeper understanding of the nation's appetite for various sports.”
In an exclusive interview with Storyboard18, Rajesh V Menon, the vice president and head of RCB, spoke on the commercial success of the brand, elevating the franchise beyond the realm of cricket, and more. Edited excerpts:
It's been 16 years. How has RCB grown over this time? How has the journey been?
Let's rewind and delve into the genesis of RCB's journey, particularly since its inception in the IPL. Originating in Bangalore but aspiring to captivate a broader audience nationwide was what our identity was all about. Reflecting on our early positioning, there's a narrative woven into the fabric of our brand. Two decades ago, the landscape of aspirations in India was undergoing a transformation. While the pursuit of government jobs and security once dominated, the advent of the IT revolution prompted a significant shift. People from smaller cities and towns began migrating to larger urban centres and even abroad, navigating a landscape devoid of the safety nets of familial support. In this era of startups, where success and failure coexisted, there emerged a collective desire to progress.
This backdrop laid the foundation for our resonating philosophy: "Play Bold". It wasn't just a guiding principle for RCB on the cricket field; it became a reflection of the aspirations of Young India. RCB's manifestation of this philosophy is evident in numerous accolades, including holding the highest score in IPL and securing the record for the most sixes.
IPL teams have become a brand by themselves and have grown way beyond cricket. Tell us more about that.
Expanding beyond the cricketing arena, RCB strategically transformed into more than just a sporting team, it became a lifestyle brand. Our digital presence, initially rooted in Bangalore, has blossomed to span the entire nation and resonate globally, ranking as the third largest on digital platforms. This transformation allowed us to contribute not only to the sports narrative but also to the lifestyle and culture that surrounds it.
The evolution is tangible in various endeavours—from launching a bar and cafe to introducing lifestyle products like Dash of RCB, a beverage. Our digital engagement extends beyond the game itself, with the introduction of exclusive campaigns and online activations. Moreover, being the sole franchise with its own ticketing platform and merchandising portal signifies our commitment to providing a seamless experience for fans.
As we look back over the last 16 years, RCB's growth has been multifaceted. It's not just about the victories on the cricket field, it's about carving a distinct identity as a lifestyle brand, resonating with the ethos of Young India, and contributing to the ever-expanding digital and global landscape. The journey has been bold, dynamic and emblematic of the spirit that defines RCB.
When you say you are the third sports franchise in the world when it comes to social media, what exactly does that encompass?
Since the start of the year, RCB has consistently ranked among the most popular sporting teams across the world in terms of engagement on social media platforms such as Instagram and X (formerly Twitter), being the highest-ranked cricketing team amongst franchises across numerous sports.
In January 2023, RCB was the highest-ranked cricket team among the most popular sports teams in the world ranked by total interactions on Instagram during the month.
In February 2023, RCB was the only cricket team in the top 10 most popular sports teams in the world ranked by total interactions on Instagram. For the inaugural season of the WPL (Women's Premier League) conducted during March 2023, Royal Challengers Bangalore continued their dominance on social media.
Come March 2023, RCB was also the second most popular sports team in the world ranked by total interactions on Instagram.
Following the conclusion of the WPL, the men’s IPL took place between March 31 and May 29. RCB’s digital properties such as their podcasts and other segments propelled the team to the top of the social media rankings once again throughout the duration of the tournament.
As of March 2023, RCB was the only cricket team in the top three sports teams in the world behind football teams Real Madrid and Barcelona with the highest social media engagement in terms of total interactions during March 2023.
How is foreign investments transforming Indian sports, and how does RCB contribute to a comprehensive vision for sports development? Could you elaborate on the importance of the upcoming Leaders Meet:India in addressing key factors and fostering collaboration between Indian and international perspectives?
Foreign investments in Indian sports have gained significant traction, marking a pivotal shift in the global perception of India's sporting landscape. A notable instance occurred two years ago when the IPL expanded by adding two teams, attracting substantial foreign investment. This strategic move showcased the attractiveness of Indian sports as an investment destination.
Beyond cricket, other sports have also witnessed noteworthy foreign investments. In football, the ISL (Indian Super League) has become a focal point, drawing attention from international football giants. Manchester City, a powerhouse in the EPL (English Premier League), exemplifies this trend by investing in Mumbai City FC, a move indicative of the global interest in the Indian football landscape. Additionally, La Liga, the Spanish football league, has contributed to football development in India by investing in coaching centres, displaying a commitment to nurturing talent and promoting the sport.
In this evolving landscape of foreign investments, leaders like those associated with RCB have played a pivotal role. RCB, with its 16 years of experience in driving the IPL and contributing to the cricketing economy in India, stands as a testament to the transformative power of sports.
Recognising the broader vision necessary for the holistic growth of sports in India, the vision extends beyond the cricket field, encompassing every facet of the sports industry. This holistic approach involves thoughtful discussions and a clear policy framework to address critical factors influencing the sports ecosystem in India.
The Leaders Meet:India serves as a platform to materialise this vision. Bringing together pioneers and leaders with diverse expertise, the summit delves into crucial aspects such as social impact, governance, technology and performance. Renowned speakers from various domains, including Formula 1, golf and EPL, provide invaluable insights into what has been achieved globally and how India can chart a path forward.
The summit's agenda revolves around meaningful conversations, fostering collaboration between Indian and international perspectives. By comprehensively addressing critical factors, the summit aims to move the needle in Indian sports, bringing about positive changes that extend beyond the traditional boundaries of the field. It represents a collective effort to elevate the entire sports ecosystem in India and position the nation as a global hub for sports excellence.
Coming back to initiatives outside of cricket, tell us a little more on Dash of RCB and any other new initiatives we expect to see from you.
Dash of RCB is a premium line of non-alcoholic mixers that marks an innovative extension of RCB’s highly successful RCB Bar and Cafe venture. Available across the country in four classic flavours—Whisky Sour, Pink Paloma, Cranberry Cosmopolitan and Green Apple—Dash of RCB aims to simplify the art of crafting bar-quality cocktails and mocktails in a hassle-free manner anytime and anywhere. Dash of RCB would be available on all leading e-commerce platforms in 250 ml bottles with a price tag of Rs 99 each.
Then we have another initiative called RCB Hustle. Royal Challengers Bangalore’s exclusive online fitness and nutrition IP, RCB Hustle powered by The Outfit offers fans a lifetime opportunity to unfold a world of fitness, access to masterclass fitness regimes of their favourite cricketers, and innumerable benefits and rewards.
RCB Hustle is a unique amalgamated platform embodied with RCB’s three core pillars of technology, community building and gamification that will usher in a new era for fitness consumers. The platform will also be a one-stop destination for the extreme fitness enthusiast as well as for beginners to redefine their fitness with access to workout regimes of stars like Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis, and expert training and guidance from the finest trainers.
Can you tell us which specific genres and brands are more interested in tying up with the franchise? What categories stand out?
Qatar Airways’ sponsorship with RCB was a game changer for the Indian sporting landscape. This sponsorship deal was a first of its kind since no Indian airline is part of the sport in any capacity and it paved the way for the brand to foray into India and their association with RCB. Qatar Airways capitalised on the opportunity by tapping into the brand presence, appeal and the massive fan base that RCB enjoys and has become our title sponsor for next three years. So, the airline category was one of the brand genres that emerged as a new interest within the IPL in 2023.