How IPL 2023 became a thriving democracy of brands

It wouldn’t be surprising if Digital becomes the mother play of it all, and television regresses into the status of a niche-play. In the bargain every brand can advertise.

By  Harish BijoorMay 18, 2023 1:33 PM
How IPL 2023 became a thriving democracy of brands
The IPL today is more democratised than ever before. It’s a thriving democracy of brands as well. A game as secular and equal in its audience profile is bound to be a democracy of brands as well. The republic of cricket is here. (Image sourced via Twitter - @IPL)

In the beginning cricket was a man’s game. It was played by men, and largely watched by men. I don’t know why. And then in came women’s cricket. It was played by women and watched by a small set of women and men. I don’t know why again. And now in comes IPL, the world’s largest T20 league. And it is watched by a big chunk of men, a growing chunk of women, and indeed by a very gender- fluid set of folk who just thrive on the back-to-back games that occupy their every evening after work. Again, I don’t know why. I will not pretend I do. All I know is that more than 850 Million sets of eyeballs get immersed in this game day after day, drowning their day’s sorrow with a beverage in hand and excitement in their hearts.

The IPL season currently on is a case in point. Men, women and children, along with their cats and dogs are excitedly watching the game unfold. In the bargain, broadcasters who have paid a handsome amount on media rights are laughing all the way to the bank. Cricket has arrived, and IPL, which was hitherto a kind of anarchy of big brands with big monies is today progressively getting democratised. The game got democratised first. It had the men and women watching it with equal glee and participation. It got the urban, rurban and rural audiences hooked to it. It got the super-rich, the rich and the poor in. It got every region in. It got every language in (11 language broadcasts to date), and most importantly it has this year got in the big brands as it has the smaller ones. This year on, if you have Rs 25 lakhs in your kitty, you can still be an active and viable advertiser on IPL. The IPL today is more democratised than ever before. It’s a thriving democracy of brands as well. A game as secular and equal in its audience profile is bound to be a democracy of brands as well. The republic of cricket is here. And every brand has the ability to be on it.

Disruptive gameplay

The current IPL season has thrown open cricket for all types of advertisers. It starts with the division of media rights between television and digital. What was once owned by one entity to sell is now being sold by two, if not many. While one stream sells cricket watched on television, the other touts cricket watched on digital. Winners of media rights for each, having paid more or less a similar amount in terms of rupee value, are aggressively touting their offerings. Reliance JioCinema went disruptive this time round by offering IPL for free on its medium. In the bargain, JioCinema downloads cascaded by millions and the democracy of free viewership was further percolated as a norm for the Indian market. If at all JioCinema does start charging for it in a future season, there will be fun to watch. JioCinema has sampled IPL for free and has touched the heart of the Indian who loves the FREE word more than anyone else. It’s now time to monetise the eyeballs they have captured.

If you have Rs 25 lakhs in your kitty, you can still be an active and viable advertiser on IPL. The IPL today is more democratised than ever before. It’s a thriving democracy of brands as well.

The democracy of cricket viewership is now splintering in the way cricket was watched in the older days gone by. In the beginning it was group viewership on television with families getting together to watch the game. As television percolated into Indian homes, the viewership splintered into family viewership of 5. And now, with IPL on the smart phone and smart device, the audience has splintered to the audience of one. An audience of one on-the-go as well.

Types of advertisers

The science of cricket broadcast is getting redefined today. While television does broadcast (both connected and linear), digital does play the narrowcast game to advantage. Today, you pay by impressions and every advertiser can literally choose the audience that is being addressed. Digital therefore grows by night, and I will therefore not be surprised if digital becomes the mother play of it all, and television regresses into the status of a niche-play in the not so distant future. In the bargain every brand can advertise. The democracy is here for all to see, participate in and enjoy.

A review of the type of advertisers who have used IPL this year will tell the story of a gradual but sure-footed democratisation of IPL. The startups seem to have taken a back seat on the back of a funding winter that has had them in their shell. Dream11, RuPay, Asian Paints, Airtel and a clutch of players from FMCG, auto and telecom continue their play this season. Data from the Connected TV play seems to suggest that the number of spots per match seem far higher as compared to Linear TV. If Connected TV play boasts of 82 spots per match, Linear TV is at 52. Telling a story all its own as well.

There are many stories waiting to unfold as far as the democratisation of IPL in further seasons is concerned. For now, let’s sit back, analyse the play of both the sport and the business. The business is more important than the sport of course! Touché!

The writer is a business and brand- strategy expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. Views expressed are personal.

First Published on May 15, 2023 1:23 AM

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