The World Cup vs IPL debate

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Is advertising on IPL a better bet for marketers compared to the cricket World Cup? That’s the question posed to leading marketers over the last fortnight or so. Interesting debates have happened on CNBC’s Storyboard and on print media (good reads here, here and here).The summary of the debate & discussions seems to be:

– the risk attached to the early exit of India (as in the case of the 2007 tournament) from the World Cup is minimized this year. India is guaranteed to play matches a month into the opening of the tournament

– strict sponsorship guideliens of the ICC ensure that sponsors’ interests are taken care of by the governing bodies

– it’s national pride at stake with the World Cup and the prospect of India doing well in this tournament is mouth watering for certain pan-India brands and which involve cricketers as brand ambassadors

– IPL, with its mix of sport and entertainment and tamasha associated with it, is expected to attract additional viewers and is seen as better bang for the buck, by some media experts.

In my view, for most advertisers (who need and can afford presence in such big ticket sporting events) it is not a ‘either-or’ situation. I think they will participate in both. But the IPL offers benefits and attracts a certain kind of advertiser, unlike the World Cup: the lesser known or challenger brand which has ambitions to play in the big league. Brands like Micromax, Karbonn (which of course have become a big brands now) – come to mind. For them, IPL provides the right kind of platform to gain familiarity quickly.

The equivalent risk of ‘India’s performance’ at the World Cup is the over-commercialization of IPL. Brand messages can get easily drowned in all that tamasha. Another aspect of IPL is the comparison to Super Bowl. In the US, advertisers consider Super Bowl to be good value for money despite the high cost ($3mn for a single 30-sec spot) and don’t hesitate to create big, bold, jaw-dropping advertising that takes a fortune to produce. Some of ads are even a minute long – the approach seems to be ‘bigger the better’ (not necessarily a sure-shot recipe for great advertising, though). But with IPL, advertisers were cautious and most ended up running short edits of already established commercials. What will IPL 4 hold for advertisers?

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