Over the past decade, the fundamentals of sports have changed. As per GroupM and IIM-A study, the sports industry in both mature and emerging economies has been growing faster than the GDP of their respective economies. With a number of new leagues formed in the recent past, there is an interesting set of differences emerging amongst them. Different sports have specific audiences, and each sport going towards the path of a professional sports league at its own pace.
IPL – the king of all Indian leagues makes for a stellar case. Just like how Super Bowl in the US is the most important date on every marketeers’ calendar, IPL is arguably the only Indian breeding ground for brands to tell their stories with the maximum reach. Withstanding huge changes and events such as IPL Chairma(e)n, franchisee ownerships, fake IPL player saga (how entertaining was that!) and Karbonn Kamaal Catch to Vivo Perfect Catch, IPL truly stood the test of time and became the coveted IPL 2.0.
Back in 2008, IPL was the biggest victory for SET Max and a huge loss for Star Sports. 10 years later, Hotstar has become a strong force to reckon with boasting a 5x growth rate over television industry. As per our research, a significant amount of this growth can be attributed to an emergence of ‘micro-moments.’ Consumers today are increasingly living in shorter bursts and flocking on the internet more frequently than ever before. ‘I want to know Now’, ‘I want to go Now’, ‘I want to Eat Now’, I want a Holiday Now’, ‘I want to know the scores Now’ are only few examples amongst the million micro-moment manifestations in a consumer’s life. Hotstar provides a solution to this pressing consumer by providing access to on-the-go content customized to taste and preferences. In a multi-screen world, Hotstar just encapsulates everything under one app whereas Sony continues to be one amongst many channels. Brands need to engage with audiences at these micro-moments during IPL. An effective media strategy is more important than an effective creative strategy.
A marketing carnival in itself with hundreds of brands onboard over the last decade, few IPL campaigns have evolved from a series of 5-20 seconds of ad variations blasts to a storytelling rendition. Not only are the communications more prominent and integrated across various online and offline mediums, but brands have also learned to find the right hook to connect with the viewers.
Let’s look at a classic case- Vodafone. Its association kicked off in IPL Season 1 with the “Happy to Help” campaign featuring the beloved ‘Cheeka’ the pug. Being a recent entrant in India in 2009, it successfully fulfilled its aim of rebranding and reaching maximum awareness. The creation of ZooZoos back in 2009, historic as ever, worked because the campaign broke the clutter and the VAS were innovatively packaged through endearing animated characters.
Fast forward to 2016 and 2017, we now observe a 360° marketing blitzkrieg around its SuperNet services. Super Fan, Super Buddy, Super Brother, Super Album, Super Cheer. As part of the #MakeMostOfNow campaign in this IPL, Vodafone brilliantly portrays a real-life old couple on their Goa honeymoon using data services (oops! read: SuperNet) in different activities. This was released through six TVCs and worked like a charm with the viewers. Stepping away from ZooZoos and projecting real people with equally endearing qualities was a masterstroke by Vodafone.
What was the hook? Stories. Storytelling has to be at the core of a creative strategy.
Another example of a serialized storytelling proposition is Amazon’s Chonkpur Cheetahs. Debuting this season, this e-commerce giant created a fictional IPL team as part of the 46 days long “Apni Dukaan” campaign. Through sequential advertising and creating engaging content (eg: female wicketkeeper, Brett Lee interview, team song and logo, etc.,) Amazon has tactically managed to (1) weave itself in the IPL fabric with a continued storyline for coming seasons, (2) create a bond with viewers through their emotional investment, and most importantly, (3) gain a stronger foothold with the rurbans.
We believe that the journey from IPL 1.0 to 2.0 was a 10-years long one, however it might just take only 5 years for the next avatar to be born. Imagine IPL in 2022, where you are watching the game in stadium using your own virtual reality gear. All match stats are customized to your data and viewer settings. You won’t see an advertisement for a soap that you aren’t buying. You will have content, ads, player stats and a lot more customized exactly to your preferences.
IPL in 2022 will be about unicast to millions of audiences with a million different stories. Broadcast will cease to be the norm.
Featured Image Credit: Ogilvy, India