Opinion: IPL sponsorship – what’s in it for Tata?

Tata IPL Sponsorship

With 50% of IPL’s viewership being a part of the younger demographic, Tata Group holds an advantage to attract the younger audience, opines Prabhakar Mundkur as he shares how the new titular sponsorship is set to redefine the marketing & communication game for the brand.

When Vivo gave up the IPL sponsorship most Indians must have been relieved. There has been discomfort with Chinese brands in the country for some time now, after the continued Chinese aggression on our borders. Although the phone is actually made locally, did the IPL sponsorship help Vivo? It certainly did. The brand is the third-largest brand in the Indian market. In FY 20 its revenue grew 45% to Rs 25,060 crores.  

So there is little doubt that IPL is excellent for a new brand that needs to establish itself because of the huge brand awareness that IPL brings to the table. This year from April 2- June 3 a two-month period, a title sponsor can dominate their brand in the market for 8-9 weeks. The IPL has also been growing consistently to deliver better value for brands year after year.

For Season 13,  there was a 23% growth in viewing minutes and was in fact the first sports tournament to cross  400 billion viewing minutes according to viewing data.

So, it’s truly our version of the Super Bowl except that it runs for 2 months instead of a single day.

While IPL gave Vivo a real shot in the arm there has been some speculation on what it could do for Tata. Tata is an established brand, that perhaps is top-of-mind anyway with the average  Indian. 

While Tata is an old brand it is also a brand that is perhaps better known amongst the oldies. With IPL Tata has a distinct advantage to appeal to the young population of India and to start bulling awareness and relevance for this younger target group.

The age group of < 15 years to 30  years accounts for 50% of IPL’s viewership a critical group for a new and emerging Tata with its slew of new brands and acquisitions.  

Another reason why IPL makes sense is that perhaps the corporate Tata brand now needs a  brand refresh. Most old brands fade over time and need a shot in the arm and IPL should prove to be a great shot in the arm for Tata. 43 crore people watch IPL and this gives Tata a chance to speak to the masses in India. 

Traditionally a number of Tata brands have not really needed advertising. TCS and Tata Steel are just a few of them. Although when they do advertise their campaigns have been memorable, (take Tata Steel’s iconic baseline “We also make steel” developed by the erstwhile HTA ) there are businesses that don’t need active advertising like durables or packaged goods.

Also Read: Road To 2022: Metaverse, a legacy medium for digital PR practitioners?

IPL in many ways could force Tata to think about its evolving portfolio and how to manage this in the future. It has a slew of brands with varying degrees of dependence on the corporate name  Tata. Tata Motors, Tata Salt, Tata Steel are some of the brands with a heavy dependence on  Tatas. However, their relatively modern brands like Croma, Westside, Tanishq, Titan, Air Asia, and  Vistara depend very little on the Tata name having built equity of their own over time. To add to that new acquisitions like Big Basket have almost no Tata equity with the average consumer.  

Tata might have to reflect on how pushing the enormous impact and awareness through IPL is going to affect its brand portfolio and how they can leverage the Tata equity for their independent brands. Certainly, these brands stand to benefit out of regular air time on the IPL but how the Tata connection however subliminal is something that the group might need to reflect on. I think IPL  will therefore force Tata to re-examine its brand strategy and also its portfolio strategy. For all, we know it is a relook at their portfolio that may have prompted them to be the title sponsors for IPL.

Can we expect some kind of relaunch of the portfolio or the Tata brand during the IPL? We may have to wait and see. 

I think the last point where Tata will benefit is social media engagement.

During IPL 2020,  Facebook said, as many as 10 million mentions related to the league were made on its platform, with  74% of the people in the 18-34 age group talking about IPL. There is hardly a doubt that IPL will bring the Tata name to the forefront of social media during the 2 month period. While some of their brands are on social media such a broad exposure in social media should really provide a bonus to one of India’s oldest brands. Twitter has quoted that it witnessed a 23% year-on-year jump in cricket-season-related conversations in 2020. It said 51% of fans come to Twitter to read posts about matches, players, and news reports; 25% of them plan to engage with Tweets during the match whereas 21% engage after that action. Around 31% plan to watch videos while 25% are looking to follow their favorite teams. In addition, Google is working on an experimental initiative on IPL although one is not sure what it is likely to be. So the Social Media impact of IPL is going to be humungous for Tata. 

The title sponsorship of IPL also coincides with Tata launching its super app Tata Neu that itself perhaps does an efficient job of consolidating the brands in the Tata portfolio. Not launched formally yet, the app is currently being used by employees. 

On balance, I think the IPL will do Tata more good than harm. A lot will depend on how they plan to take forward their portfolio strategy of a slew of brands with varying degrees of dependence on the mother brand ‘Tata’ and its equity. For BCCI it is a face-saver that makes them rich. Not only do they get Rs 670 crores from Tata for the title sponsorship but Rs 454 crores from Vivo for termination of the contract.  

The article is authored by Prabhakar Mundkur, a former advertising agency captain who has spent over four decades in marketing services across geographies.


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