Indian Premier League: hitting the right ‘note$’

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Much has been written about the business aspect of Indian Premier League – the enormous bidding amounts, the franchisees etc. From a marketing communications point of view, I think IPL (the official website is pretty sad, though) and its agency have begun to hit the right notes. In my view, the challenges ahead of IPL were these:

Create a brand idea: while the Twenty20 format received favourable response from cricket fans, the lukewarm start to the competitor ICL, raised doubts about the likely popularity of IPL as a brand. Experts talked of it as entertainment and not cricket; the ability to generate excitement towards teams in the absence of ‘pride’ associated with the support of a national team were all cited as reasons. I think the IPL campaign very smartly positioned it as ‘Karmayudh’ – the test of skills.It bypasses the arguments about national teams and plants the seed of pride of skill being at play. The ad may have its detractors, but I think it works because of a clever combination of catchy, foot tapping, anthem-like music and intriguing visuals. In terms of execution, it is ‘insipred’ (ahem) by the Fox Baseball TV spot (see it here). By the way, check out the hilarious spot for ICL’s Chennai Superstar’s here.

Raise expectations: with smart use of non-paid media and a fan following that laps up anything to do with cricket, the real advertising for the event was done by the television channels.

Generate loyalty: one of the key reasons behind the success of properties like NBA is the fierce loyalty they generate from the local fans. Having created visibility with the karmayudh idea, IPL has now moved to the second phase where they urge people to vie for their local teams. The dentist ad sets the tone for competition and thus loyalty between teams.

As an aside, the launch of iPhone had a similar pre-launch approach: create tease and hype, sustain the excitement prior to launch, use non-paid media intelligently to create visibility, manage backlash and finally, deliver.

Looks like a nice platform has been set for the IPL and the expectations have been raised high. What more can one expect before the product launch? Will they deliver?

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