x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

IPL hit for six but set for big score

The Indian Premier League is the richest in cricket, with tens of billions of rupees of advertising revenue and media rights at stake

Ten-second advertising spots during India's match with Sri Lanka in the recent World Cup final reached as much as 1.8 million rupees.
Ten-second advertising spots during India's match with Sri Lanka in the recent World Cup final reached as much as 1.8 million rupees.

MUMBAI // After three years of robust growth, the brand value of cricket's Indian Premier League (IPL) dropped 11 per cent this year to US$3.67 billion (Dh13.48bn) from $4.13bn last year, a UK brand valuation company says.

The new season begins today amid fanfare, and the IPL has been extolled by marketing gurus as one of the world's fastest growing brands.

Last year, Forbes magazine rated it as the world's fourth-hottest sporting property after its brand value doubled from $2.01bn in its opening season in 2008.

The erosion in value this year is largely a result of ballooning team costs, the UK company Brand Finance says, which include wages of players and the money spent on a competitive auction in January to select players.

The average sum spent on each player in the IPL over a year is $2.5 million, the world's highest maintenance cost for a sportsman after the US National Basketball Association, which spends $2.6m per player.

The IPL's growth story had hit a "speed breaker" this year, says Unni Krishnan, the managing director of Brand Finance in India.

But the popularity of the tournament remains intact in this cricket-mad nation of 1.21 billion. The IPL's fourth season, which comes less than a week after India's dazzling victory in the Cricket World Cup, promises to be bigger and glitzier than ever.

SET Max, the official IPL broadcaster, is expected to earn a windfall of 10bn rupees (Dh831.1m), one-third more than the previous season. Its counterpart for the World Cup, ESPN Star Sports, earned 8bn rupees for that competition.

Some analysts predicted the unprecedented hype generated by the World Cup would lead to fatigue among viewers of the game, damaging the broadcaster's financial prospects.

But the Indian cricket frenzy, far from waning, has increased after last week's impressive victory.

"Fatigue? What fatigue?" says Rohit Gupta, the president of network sales at MSM India, which owns SET Max.

"India played only nine games in the World Cup - that's an average of one game per week. Cricket lovers are eager for more action."

SET Max's advertising inventory is fully sold out, Mr Gupta says. Ten-second ad spotsat 650,000 rupees each were bought by more than 100 brands including Vodafone, Cadbury, LG and Samsung.

By contrast, a 10-second ad spot during the World Cup sold by ESPN Star Sports cost an average of 350,000 rupees.

"Hardly 200 seconds of spots [during the World Cup] were sold for the premium price," Mr Gupta says. "That does not add much to the overall revenue pie. We've kept our rates consistent for most of the [IPL] tournament."

Each of the tournaments follows a different format of the game. The World Cup had 49 matches, with each team bowling 50 overs.

The IPL's 74 matches are 40-over games. Although ESPN Star Sports had a higher number of ad slots for sale, the interest of most advertisers was limited to those matches that generated the highest television ratings - matches involving the Indian team.

Analysts say the IPL, which has 10 teams of mixed nationalities, is expected to generate consistent interest among viewers and advertisers throughout the tournament.

Viewership in the most recent IPL season was 143 million, 15 per cent higher than the previous season. TV rating agencies expect viewership to reach new heights this year.

SET Max, which paid $1bn for the IPL broadcasting rights for a decade, says its market share grew from a pre-IPL level of 5.7 per cent to 28.8 per cent last year - higher than the total market share of the top nine Hindi general entertainment channels.

"Indians have a strong emotional connection with cricket, especially after the World Cup victory," says a senior manager from Hero Honda, the world's largest motorcycle company. "Associating with the IPL ensures great exposure. It is a dream marketing platform."

Hero Honda has committed between 500m rupees and 600m rupees to sponsor the Mumbai Indians, one of the leading IPL teams, captained by Sachin Tendulkar.