Experts believe every sports tournament has its own set of advertisers, and so there is no reason to believe that brands will not spend on other properties now
Several months back when Indian Premier League (IPL) along with Olympics, Wimbledon and other sports property got deferred owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the industry predicted that sports sponsorship will take a hit because of low advertising spends. Six months later, IPL 13 kicked off on September 29 with over 18 sponsors.
One got a hint of this sentiment when Rohit Gupta, President, Sony Pictures Networks India, while talking about the India- Australia series, said that post IPL, there was a little worry whether advertisers were willing to spend the money. “We thought it was a challenge, but fortunately, we have got a phenomenal response from the advertisers for the series,” he said. The network sold 70-75% ad inventory one week prior to the start of the series and is expecting 30-35% growth in revenues from TV over the last series.
So, how true is this fear that advertisers might not be willing to spend so much on other sporting properties now?
Industry experts believe every sports tournament has its own set of advertisers, and so broadcasters should not worry that advertisers will not spend on other properties now. In fact, they believe that in the current scenario, it's a good opportunity for advertisers to explore the category as sports is the only genre where live events are happening and it delivers great ROI.
According to Jigar Rambhia, National Director - Sports, Wavemaker India, whether it is Kabaddi League, ISL or PBL, every sport has got sponsors for itself.
“I don't think there is any particular reason why advertisers won’t spend now because they spent on IPL. We have seen the same trend in the past as well. For instance, in 2019, the World Cup was scheduled right after the IPL and it got an encouraging response from advertisers,” he says.
IPL is an expensive sport and not all advertisers can’t spend so much money on one event. Therefore, it is very likely that the sombre advertisers will show interest in other properties.
“Other sports don’t command as much premium as cricket or IPL does. As long as they get what they were getting in previous years, it's a good deal. In the current situation, we see that sports is one genre that is delivering well as there is no other live event happening. In fact, sports is one property that brands would want to explore. Getting sponsors won’t be a challenge, the real challenge will be to conduct the sports,” adds Rambhia.
Post IPL, the two sport series that started on TV were Indian Super League (began on November 20) and India-Australia bilateral series (began on November 27). Being a cricketing property and a bilateral series, India-Australia roped in over 15 sponsors before the start of the match, whereas ISL has Hero as the Title Sponsor and Byjus’, Dream11 and Himalayan Drug as other sponsors.
IPL is a premium property and came as a respite to viewers and broadcasters after several months of lockdown. The major two factors that helped IPL were: the fact that it happened during the festive period and that it was the first live cricket event that people watched after a gap of seven-eight months. Similar sentiments will work for other sports as well. Viewers have waited for live sports for a long time and hence the viewership is expected to be high.
Vaishali Verma, CEO, Initiative, shares that a lot of auto, financial, and telecom brands that were there during IPL have continued to advertise post IPL as well. “India- Australia series saw a great response from advertisers. Though it's a post-festive period and one would expect it to be a little slow and lull, surprisingly, that has not happened. This is great for both the economy and the industry.”
Verma predicts that in terms of viewership, the bilateral series will definitely see a jump of 14-15% as compared to the last year. “Cricket attracts more eyeballs and becomes the favourite of the advertisers. But I am assuming that non-cricket sports will also see an increase in viewership. Also, in the last 9-10 months, the time spent on television has gone up. Hence, impressions have gone up and it will translate into a better viewership,” opines Verma.
Undoubtedly, IPL was a big event for sports enthusiasts, as well as for inconsistent sports viewers, which also resulted in more eyeballs, and correspondingly more ad dollars. This year’s IPL was the highest-grossing IPL ever in terms of ad dollars and client/category count. During IPL 13 (53 days), ad volumes of sports genre spiked by more than three times compared to 53 days prior to IPL 13. Also, there were 37 new categories in IPL 13.
Gaurav Gemini, Business Director, Carat, feels that as far as the India-Australia series is concerned, the plus points are that there are two strong contenders and so sports enthusiasts will flock to watch the game. “Will it have the reach and scale of IPL? Probably not. But with the second lockdown in the offing, it might garner better eyeballs. Ad dollars in cricket depend on the duration of the tournament, teams that are playing and the formats. With festivals done in India, we will have to see which brands want to continue with the spending momentum,” he says.
Moreover, with the production of original content on TV resuming, the average daily viewership is inching towards stabilization and so the share of GEC, News, Movies and Kids genres have stabilized to pre- lockdown levels. Something similar is expected in the sports genre as well, says Gemini.
However, the behaviour of sports genre is content-specific, therefore, sentiments will surely remain upbeat, and viewership levels will certainly be higher, he explains.
“In the overall sports pie, other mass sports properties like ISL do not clash with any other big-ticket events in other genres. Therefore, sports viewership is certainly expected to be higher. But Covid-19 restrictions will have greater impact on advertisers for this game. For cricket, it will be completely different. With the India-Australia series, we would be witnessing some first-class cricket. But again, it would be marred by the timing of the game, and no on-ground audience. Needless to say, TV viewership would certainly be higher,” he sums up.