IPL and Brands – Are brands benefiting by advertising at IPL

The third edition of the Indian Premier League is well underway. Ads are visible all over the place – from the stadium to the television screen. Every conceivable property has been monetised, including inventory in between deliveries. This is a clear break from the traditional practice of placing ads after overs. But as a media buyer insists, “IPL is about innovation.”

Innovative or irritating, the fact remains that advertisers are a happy lot, which is why there is a clamour for last-minute spot ads. An analysis by TAM Adex, for instance, shows that the first ten days of the tournament saw some 84 brands advertise aggressively on IPL. The third edition began on March 12.

That’s a good start for the current season, say observers.

Quite clearly, it’s the eyeballs that advertisers are after, which K.V.Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, points out clearly. “IPL is about a captive audience. It’s a great marketing tool for those wanting to make their brands visible quickly.”

In the last two years, advertisers have used IPL successfully to launch new campaigns, build awareness, even saliency. This year has been no different with little-known handset manufacturers such as Karbonn Mobiles and Micromax leveraging IPL to increase visibility (remember the Akshay Kumar commercial for Micromax where he is a chef who appears completely lost in his mobile game laughing and gesticulating wildly or the Karbonn Mobile adverts in between deliveries).

Even established brands such as Pepsi (The Game), Idea (Oongli Cricket), Havell’s (lighting major), and of course, Vodafone (Zoozoos) have campaigns designed specially for season three. As Rajeev Rao, national creative director, Ogilvy & Mather, creator of the Zoozoo campaign along with Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films, said in an earlier interview to Business Standard, “It is all about a clutter-busting idea.”

But as the last-minute frenzy to book ads reaches a fever pitch (media buyers say SET MAX’s asking rate is about Rs 5.5 lakh for a ten-seconder), creative honchos seem unexcited with what is on air at the moment. The question is can the IPL here become what the Super Bowl is in America? A tournament where cutting-edge advertising is unleashed?

Typically, companies and advertising agencies set aside their best creative work for the Super Bowl – an annual American Football championship. Ads that appear here are not aired otherwise. They famously appear just once – on the Super Bowl. An oft-quoted example of SuperBowl advertising is the award-winning ‘1984’ commercial by Hollywood director Ridley Scott (famous for his Russel Crowe-starrer Gladiator in 2000), which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer.

But that is the SuperBowl, where companies are said to spend nothing else than $2.5 million for a 30-seconder.

As far as the IPL goes – an event that is equally popular here in India – the jury is still out on the effectiveness of ads visible during the tournament.

For most, IPL3 has been a disappointing creative show.

Vodafone’s Zoozoos – easily the most visible campaign on IPL – has hardly cut ice with the creative community this year. “The novelty factor has worn out,” says Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra group. Agrees M. G. Parmeswaran, executive director and chief executive officer, Mumbai, Draftfcb Ulka, “It was interesting last year.” Adds Agnello Dias, former chief creative officer at JWT India, who now runs his own agency TapRoot India, “The magic is gone. There was such an overdose of it in the first edition that it was an easy choice to make. The point is how do you sustain it once the intial hype is over. I find nothing different about it now.”

There are a few ads though that stand out in the clutter. “Such as the Kingfisher commercial where cricketers are trying to hum the Kingfisher tune,” says Dais, “Or the Airtel work featuring actor Sharman Joshi. Even Pepsi’s Game commercial with Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt is interesting,” he points out.

But as Sridhar of Leo Burnett adds, “I would give a score of two out of ten for the quality of work that I see on the IPL this year.”

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