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Q] What have been the three big take-aways from the ESP Properties report for 2019?

The first key take-away is that the 17% growth figure for sports is a very, very healthy growth from a sector standpoint. In addition to the digital growth, sports offer a unique platform where advertisers are seeing value and are hence spending with a positive outlook. The second is the 25% growth number for on- ground sponsorship, which traditionally advertisers questioned in terms of ROI.

With a 25% growth in 2019, it is very clear that a good number of advertisers believe in it and more and more brands are adding up by using sports as an important medium to engage their target audience. Another important highlight is that Paytm has renewed their India cricket title sponsorship for  another four years with 58% incremental value over the last cycle, and we are calling that out in the report too. The other associate sponsors like Dream11 have given an offset of 73%.

These data points very clearly show the importance and relevance of cricket with the masses. On IPL team sponsors, where people sometimes speculate that there is a sluggishness, clutter or saturation, 15% growth in IPL team sponsorship is a very healthy number considering there are eight teams and 80 sponsorship spots in terms of inventory to be sold!

Q] The year 2019 has been good for sports despite the slowdown and other challenges. What are some of the factors expected to drive growth in Indian sports in 2020?

Cricket will continue to grow. If you look at emerging sports and leagues, this is the seventh year for Premier Kabaddi League (PKL), which I believe will settle down in the next two to three years. The same goes for the Indian Super League (ISL). You need to take at least a 10-year view for any of these leagues before you start to see results. From that standpoint, in the next two to three years, emerging sports should come up well.

In addition, cricket will continue to grow consistently in the same growth percentage. e-sports is also something that will slowly and steadily rise in this country. However, unlike the West, we are a ‘mobile first’ e-sport market, so the model that operates in the European market or in the American market will be very different than what happens in India. You will see a lot of fantasy sports, a lot of Mobile Premier League (MPL) kind of formats. Growth will come from these formats in addition to the larger
e-sports format that we saw like the DreamHack in Mumbai and the PUBG event in Delhi, if not in 2020, 2021 for sure.

 Q] What kind of growth do you expect to see in 2020? In the event that the IPL is cancelled this year in view of the ongoing coronavirus situation, how much impact will we see across the sector?

In our report, we don’t project a number for the following emerging and growing with a lot of learnings. Cricket still rules the roost as most leagues have adopted one-size-fits-all approach and have replicated the IPL format. The sports industry is at a stage of experimenting with multiple sports and formats; we are therefore calling our report ‘Sporting Nation in the Making’ and not ‘Sporting Nation’. Going forward, on a positive note that the current coronavirus situation changes over the next few days, we can expect a healthy, double-digit growth again in 2020. Having said that, we might see an impact on sports business if some of our leagues like IPL get shortened or cancelled. As for the outlook for 2020, we should have better clarity hopefully by the end of this month.

Q] On media spends, the report shows a huge 84% jump in Digital spends, while spends on Print fell drastically. Tell us how advertisers are leveraging Digital during sporting tournaments. Are the Digital spends largely on OTT platforms?

A lot of innovations will happen on the Digital medium, more than Television, because the medium allows two-way engagement. Hotstar, for instance, is already doing that during the IPL, asking consumers questions and getting them to respond in real-time while they are watching the games. TV and Digital are driving the growth at the moment. The fall in Print spends looks like a trend that will unfortunately continue.

Q] Media spends overall grew at 18% to Rs 5,232 crore in 2019. How are advertisers leveraging sporting events to drive brand recall and growth today?

Sports is a very premium platform. Unlike other mediums, sports is all about appointment viewing. It is the only platform for which one needs to block one’s time. There is no fun in watching a cricket or football match when you know of the result already. So sports will remain premium, and that is why we are confident and bullish.

Q] The IPL continues to see phenomenal growth, as pointed out in your report. How far would you say the property is from achieving Super Bowl status?

Firstly, the IPL is definitely going towards a Super Bowl stage. Our starting point on media has been very modest. Therefore, if you’re comparing it to a Super Bowl, a premium sporting property in the world, it is honestly not far behind at all! If you look at the plans for this year’s tournament, they are also talking about seven women’s IPL games. Plus there are plans to have an All Stars’ match sometime around the play-offs. The IPL is definitely our answer to the Super Bowl, perhaps not from a money standpoint or investment standpoint, but definitely we are taking steps in that direction.

Q] On the endorsement front, it is clear that very few sports stars see advertiser interest that matches Virat Kohli’s or MS Dhoni’s. While there is still advertiser interest in female athletes like PV Sindhu and Mary Kom, what can the industry do better to drive greater interest in non-cricket stars and women sports personalities?

The principle difference is that we haven’t yet marketed women in sports. The way we market cricket, or even a kabaddi or football league, I don’t think we have really gone all out when it comes to marketing women in sports. Slowly and steadily, with steps taken by ICC in Australia, and with our cricket team performing well in the women’s T20 World Cup this year, we are seeing that we had to do much more than what we have. We have done a very half-hearted job yet. I don’t think even BCCI or ICC sell a women’s sports event separately. They only sell the men’s tournaments and the women’s events are packaged with that. This may perhaps be the first time that IPL might try and monetise the seven matches of women’s cricket. We need to give out the message that these events are not going to come free, and that is how we will build value over time.

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Tags : interview cover story Christina Moniz cricket sports marketing ESP Properties Vinit Karnik