Indian ‘Premium’ League

It all started as a game, game of cricket it was. First over, 3 runs conceded, none off the bat. Second over goes for a staggering eighteen runs, the crowd goes roaring, belly dancers shake their bellies – ominous of the era to come. Brendan McCullum’s blitzkrieg 158 off 73 balls with 10 fours and 13 sixes put a lid on all the doubters.

Way back in 1977, when Kerry Packer initiated the Pajama cricket- flashy jerseys, white balls, floodlights radiating- it ignited a furor in the cricketing world. In a meeting with the ACB in 1976, Packer was famously quoted having said: “There is a little bit of whore in all of us, gentleman. What is your price?” The profanity of the statement met with brick bats from the erstwhile, cricketing fraternity. Some, 22 years later, when players were openly bought and sold in the Indian Premier League market, few had the gumption to voice against. The reason may be that BCCI packed more punches than individual Packer did, or the fact that the practice of trading players was not the first of its kind -being a regular exercise in football world. Within 2 years of its birth, IPL was valued at $ 2.01 billion and still expected to increase by 50 percent. The league is now the 5th largest sporting brand in the world, just below FIFA and above Wimbledon & F1. Ipso facto it is established that ‘IPL’ is a behemoth amongst the money-looms.

For the 3rd season, Sony Entertainment Television expects Rs. 700 crores from advertising revenues alone. One can only mull over the monetary megalith this event is. Lalit Modi is said to have raked in almost Rs. 330 crores by selling theatre-screening rights of the tournament to Entertainment Direct, which in turn has partnered with the UFO movies to screen the matches in HD quality in 800 screens across the country. While, semi-finals and final is to be screened in 3D- a first for any sporting event.

Stats never state a phenomenon, but certainly provide hindsight. There are mixed reactions across different sectors around the country. The entertainment industry for instance, suffered most with Gross Rating Points (GRPs) dipping downwards for Daily soap honchos, the movie industry too caught up with the IPL paranoia – shying away from big releases. The whole endemic called claustrophobia, spread like swine-flu, no one was willing to move from couches and remote controls were left virgin.

On the other hand, the tourism industry got a major boost with the influx of people from around the globe, let alone the migration of Indian denizens. The pang was felt when IPL-2 had to be moved off-shores due to security concerns. In a newspaper report from New Delhi, the tourism industry termed the IPL walk-out as a ‘national shame’.

“It is a shame for the country… As far as tourism is concerned… yes, it would have been beneficial had it been held in the country, considering the sector is facing the heat of the downturn,” ATC chairman and head of STIC travel group Subhash Goel was quoted saying.

The afore-mentioned statements were made profound when Jacob Zuma, the South African President thanked IPL by saying, “The month-long IPL has revived the country’s economy. It has boosted the South African economy by 1 billion rand with the number of hotel rooms booked and the number of flights that were added. It has given a fillip to South African tourism. The IPL was a great advertisement for next month’s Confederations Cup and the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We will be happy to organize it again if the need arises in the future,” Zuma said in his speech at the IPL’s closing ceremony.

President’s speech made it apparent that IPL was a hit in South Africa too and now if Modi is to be believed, he is eyeing U.S.A as the next gold mine to be excavated.

On the advertising front, the ZooZoo campaign created by O&M for Vodafone left its impact on viewers. According to Kumar Subramaniam, Executive Brand Director on Vodafone at O&M, “Zoozoos are adorable creatures who were meant to surprise viewers in each of the IPL matches. There was a new story everyday from them and this kept interest in the brand alive and managed to engage viewers for the five weeks of IPL-2.”

Relatively unknown education brands such as the Punjab-based Lovely Professional University and computer hardware and networking institute, Jetking Infotrain Ltd used the platform to strengthen their brands.

IPL’s progenitor, the nouveau riche Lalit Modi has avowed, “The target is to beat the NFL, which is at USD 4.5 billion”. Going by trends, the cake is at licking distance.

Debojit Dutta

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