How IPL became a Social Media Giant and changed Business in India

IPL

The Indian Premier League- or the IPL as it is more popularly known- is a mammoth enterprise. The league celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and is bigger than ever. It has revolutionised the way cricket is played not only in the country, but globally as well. For a game that has been so far been reserved for the exhibition of national pride and talent, the new dynamic has certainly put a spin on it! It’s not just about cricket anymore; cheerleaders, celebrity managers, marketing campaigns, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. In the 10 years since its inception, the league has grown exponentially and created tremendous opportunities, in cricket and business.

IPL, the Indian Premier League has been such a rage in India and around the world since its introduction in 2008. For those of you who don’t have a clue what IPL is, IPL is a twenty-over cricket tournament where top-class Indian and international players play alongside. Why IPL has become such a huge success? Is it the format, marketing, money or glamor, which is making it so popular? What blogging has to do with IPL? Why should I, as a blogger, care about IPL at all? Hold on, buddy! I will soon show you the connection between these two and how much we can learn from IPL and put it in practice while blogging.

IPL season lasts for only two months of the year, but their presence is felt throughout. IPL teams and several individual players have become brand ambassadors and conduct activities with the companies that they represent, all year long. The union of bollywood and cricket is also a factor that contributes to its success and is clearly a fiery combination; India’s favourite superstars head popular teams and have created an even larger fan base. It has emerged as India’s premier sporting platform with a global viewership and fan following unmatched by any other cricketing league around the world. Within 10 years, the IPL morphed into a media platform that can rival that of any other sporting leagues around the world that have been around for decades. No one could have predicted that the IPL would become such a big hit when it was conceptualised in 2007.

Since the beginning, the IPL has been dogged by scandal and controversy- from match fixing to ball tampering- but that has not inhibited its growth. As of 2017, the IPL brand was valued at a whooping 5.3 billion dollars- a significant increase from the 4.2 billion dollars from the previous year. It is the most sought after marketing platform in India; advertising contracts are hugely responsible for the brand value that IPL currently represents. IPL’s current title sponsor is Vivo. They held the title rights for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, which was pegged at an estimated 100 crore per year. In 2017, they renewed their contract for a 5 year deal at 2199 crores, which is 554% higher than the previous deal and the largest sporting sponsorship contract in history. The continued unprecedented response from advertisers, broadcasters, sponsors, partners and the increasing demands of the viewing public has made the IPL the most awaited window for advertisers in the country. So much so that the other Indian giant, Bollywood, takes a step back; big movies release only after the end of the season.

The Indian Premier League has played a major role in enhancing the careers of players from India and abroad. Virender Sehwag said, ‘I think what the IPL did to the Indian cricket is that it gave unknown players to the Indian cricket team. If they play for their first class team, they will take at least five to six years to come and play for India. “But through the IPL, those players, who have talent and who did well — they just did well in one season and next year they were part of team India, that is what IPL did,”

Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravi Ashwin and Mohit Sharna have gone on to stellar careers as a result of the opportunities the IPL gave them. In recent seasons, stars like Basil Thampi, Karun Nair, KL Rahul and Sanju Samson have made it to the Indian team as a result of their stellar IPL campaigns.

Australians David Warner and Glenn Maxwell became world class players and enhanced their status as players for their national teams as a result of their performances in the IPL. South African AB De Villiers took his game to another level, making the jump from being a talented but inconsistent middle order player for South Africa to one of the foremost players in the world. The IPL has provided a platform for young inexperienced youngsters to rub shoulders with some of the world’s greatest players and improve their game, both on a physical and mental level.

The IPL has also benefited players from all players financially which has enabled players to help out their families and give them a better life. Sehwag says, “ The IPL benefited me financially, because when I played for India, it was Rs 2 lakh per game, Test matches Rs five lakh a game and then suddenly in the IPL you get Rs 10- crore or Rs 12-crore contract and then you are financially secure and you can work more on fitness and perform for the IPL and India. The moment you get dropped from India (the national squad), prices drop which we have seen in a lot of players. Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh (since) they are not playing for India, they did not get (Rs) 10 or 12 crore”.

IPL 10 was considered one of the most prominent and buzziest installments of the tournament; it was mentioned on Twitter over 6 million times, twice as much as last season. It witnessed a surge in followers and cricket enthusiasts who support their teams with the same, if not more passion, as they do with the Indian national team.

The BCCI was also responsible for the increased fanfare; they created a massive buzz around IPL 10 by hosting 8 opening ceremonies instead of just one, as is traditional. This kind of buzz not only helped in getting more fans, followers, popularity and tweets but also fetched higher IPL viewership than before: an increment of 40% more viewers in the opening week alone as compared to last year.

The massive success of IPL 10 was evident in the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India data report released last year, which mentioned that IPL 10 had 1.25 billion impressions across the five Sony television channels- the previous media partner- broadcasting IPL (an increase of 22.5% from last year when 1.02 billion impressions were recorded). Of the 1.25 billion impressions, nearly 45% of the total viewership came from rural India which is further evidence of IPL’s pan India reach. This changing dynamic is a result if various factors, but better accessibility and lower connection rates, along with the convenience of smartphones is largely responsible for changing the dynamic. Smartphones have also helped the IPL and various individual franchises improve their reach and creater a larger fan base, through social media engagement.

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram suggest that IPL and the individual teams have witnessed an increase in support by the fans. A report released by Duff and Phelps compared the number of followers a month before IPL season 10 started with the followers right after the conclusion of the season: on an aggregate of the 3 social media websites, the IPL official page alone was able to witness a 45% increase in its followers. As per another report published by Maxus, IPL 10 registered the highest number of conversations ever across social media platforms; a total of 6 million mentions around IPL were registered during the current season which was twice the IPL 9’s mentions. MS Dhoni was the most popular cricketer on Twitter during the IPL 10 followed by Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma.

Virat Kohli was the most talked about player on Facebook and Mumbai Indians were the most talked about team on Facebook.

Mumbai Indians continue to be one of the most followed teams on social media with 2.68 million followers on Twitter, 1.3 million on Instagram and 12.25 million followers on Facebook. The constant celebrity presence like that of Shah Rukh Khan, India’s biggest superstar, also contributed to making Kolkata Knight Riders a visible brand on social networks.

KKR is the most followed IPL team on Facebook with 15.74 million fans along with 2.83 million followers on Twitter and 1.4 million followers on Instagram. Royal Challengers Bangalore was another widely followed team with 2.23 million Twitter followers, 1.3 million Instagram followers and 9.15 million Facebook fans.

In summary, one can only expect the IPL to increase in value as a brand and have a greater impact on the way media is consumed in the country. As sponsorship deals increase and the league creates more presence in the market by diversifying its products, we are sure to witness an increase in popularity, especially considering the way media is distributed and consumed in the digital age. The entry of online players like hotstar, create scope for a bigger audience and more brand visibility.

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