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The year-long rivalry between IPL franchises to build a stronger brand image

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Pranali Tawte
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While the IPL chapter for 2023 is closed, franchises Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, and Royal Challengers Bangalore lead in terms of social media engagement and fan following all year around. In this in-depth piece, Social Samosa analyzes the social media presence of IPL franchises, focusing on their overall marketing strategies.

To date, whether it is Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo and Whistle Podu or Dunya Hila Denge Hum, Indian Premier League anthems are etched into our hearts like they were released yesterday. But there's a lot that went behind creating a loyal fan following for these anthems and the teams they were made for. It all started in 2008 when IPL was first played in a stadium full of fans. To make this an all-rounder entertainment property for advertisers and cricket fans, a year-round creative strategy was followed. This involved working on creative campaigns that leave a long-lasting mark on social media, and connecting with fans beyond the sport for better opportunities off-field.

Social Presence

To have a top-of-the-mind recall, IPL franchises have built a strong presence on social media. Fans crave insights into their favorite teams, players, and daily activities, with social media platforms being the primary sources for updates. IPL franchises have realized the need to stand out in the crowded digital landscape and engage with fans perpetually. 

Measuring the total engagement, including reactions, likes, shares, comments, retweets, and so on, across platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and X (Twitter), according to comscore, Chennai Super Kings stands at first position, Mumbai Indians at second, and Royal Challengers Bangalore at third. These franchises enjoy a loyal fanbase of millions on various social media platforms. 

Each team uses different strategies to increase their social currency and engage with their target audience. Let's delve into the five major trends driving these marketing and social media strategies.

1. Campaigns

The IPL embraced the fusion of sports and entertainment, incorporating music, dance, cheerleaders, and celebrity performances into the match experience. The collaboration with the Bollywood celebrities helped attract a broader audience and positioned the IPL as not just a cricket tournament but a complete entertainment package.

These franchises have launched numerous campaigns over the years, with common patterns and trends like emphasizing the team's competitiveness, passion, teamwork, sportsmanship, diversity, and commitment to victory.

Here are the recent campaigns of the teams with the most following:

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Naresh Gupta, Co-Founder, Bang In The Middle, believes that the three teams are playing to their set established planks in marketing and that MI has always maintained a grassroots approach, Chennai emphasizes its connection to local culture, and RCB focuses on fostering a strong fan base and affection.

He said, “MI has evolved a bit, and the 2023 campaign is a fresh take on their appeal. The new song and the new video is not a take on the old, unlike CSK, which has carried the story forward. RCB, too has done an interesting take in partnership with Agneyastra, just that their take is a continuation of the established RCB theme"

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While as per Karan Taurani, Senior Vice President – Research Analyst, Elara Capital, the Mumbai Indians' theme song has remained consistent since the inception of the IPL due to the larger target audience that Hindi language caters to, in comparison to the CSK and other teams.

Taurani said, “You are restricted by the language issue that you have, and from the team’s standpoint, MI is one of the best because it's actually got the Hindi language into it and has a wider reach.”

2. Fan Engagement via Experiential and more

IPL franchises are using innovative ways to engage fans like never before. From offering experiential train journeys to transforming team buses into mobile billboards to entering the metaverse for virtual interactions, teams are redefining fan engagement.

Chennai Super Kings' Whistle Podu Express initiative showcases their approach to experiential marketing. By offering a special train and providing fans with an unforgettable journey alongside players, the franchise delivers a unique fan experience. This not only strengthens the emotional connection with the team but also generates more content as fans share their experiences with others.

On the other hand, Mumbai Indians' MI Paltan Bus goes beyond transportation, doubling as a mobile billboard that showcases their brand identity across the city. Spotted at popular locations and hangout spots, the bus captures public attention, fueling fan excitement. Earlier, fans would flock to catch a glimpse of their favorite players' pictures on the bus and show their support for the team. Social media now enables fans to witness it all virtually, further enhancing engagement and excitement around the team.

Gujarat Titans took the lead as the first IPL team to venture into the metaverse, providing a virtual space for global fans and players to connect intimately. This trailblazing move allows the franchise to create immersive experiences, strengthening the bond with their worldwide fan community.

3. Content Formats

As per iCubesWire, a digital marketing agency, when it comes to team dynamics and fan base engagement, the teams with the most conversations-starting fan bases included Royal Challengers Bangalore, with 33.7% more reach than Mumbai Indians, the second favorite team in the line-up. Yet, the Chennai Super Kings is not far behind, with a reach that’s only 4% less than that of Mumbai Indians. 

Gupta said, “The three teams are super active during the match days and they all are doing similar things. On social media, the teams have their signature style, the content pegs and approach is almost mirror image. There is nothing from overall approach that separates one from another.”

Behind the scenes

Teams provide exclusive behind-the-scenes content, offering fans a sneak peek into the team's training sessions, locker rooms, and pre and post-match rituals. This access fosters a sense of inclusion and makes fans feel like part of the team's journey.

Player interviews

Interviews with players go beyond match analysis, delving into their personalities, interests, and off-field activities. These interviews create relatable connections with fans.

Also Read: Understanding the implications of the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill on digital advertising & marketing

Glimpse into their life

Teams showcase players' lives, from their moments spent with their team to moments spent with their families, adding a personal touch that resonates with fans on a deeper level.

Leveraging star players

Teams highlight their star players, celebrating their achievements and sharing their insights. Leveraging star power enhances the team's brand value and sparks excitement among fans.

According to Hansa Research, the top three cricketers who have captured the hearts of the IPL audience are MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma further cementing their superstar status in the cricket world.

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Rajni Daswani, Director - Digital Marketing, SoCheers, believes that in terms of its brand image, Mumbai holds its platform of being a great team but sometimes struggles with the smaller things. RCB has crazy fandom because of Virat Kohli but no trophy, Chennai is a favorite with multiple trophies under their belt, and MS Dhoni’s persona takes over the teams. 

She said, “The star players in these teams do add a lot of character and depth to how the team is viewed. The brand value of the player and the team have blurry lines in the IPL.”

Influencer Marketing

Franchises collaborate with popular celebrities, local influencers, and social media personalities to promote their matches, team merchandise, and engage with fans. Influencers often post content featuring themselves in team jerseys or attending matches, creating excitement and buzz around the team.

RCB introduced a fictional character, Mr. Nags, portrayed by comedian Danish Sait who acts as a virtual team insider. Through Mr. Nags' creative snippets, RCB offers fans exclusive inside views of the team,  adding an element of humor and excitement to the content.

IPL franchises use different content formats on social media to cater to their diverse fan base, enhance engagement, and create a well-rounded brand image. 

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Talking about the overall content on social media, Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Marketing Expert, explained that all these three teams have done a good job of building their fan following – through a mix of use of social media, on ground campaigns and brand campaigns. However, he believes that amongst others, CSK is doing a good job at handling social media.

Mathias said, ”On Social Media, Chennai Super Kings have the edge with sharp posts and strong leverage of their superstars. They have the highest follower count and engagement scores.”

4. Exclusive to Fans

IPL franchises are prioritizing exclusive content to strengthen fan engagement and foster a sense of community.

Chennai Super Kings’ "Super Family" initiative offers exclusive content and merchandise to registered fans, promoting brand loyalty and a strong sense of belonging.

While #MILive by Mumbai Indians enhances fan experience through virtual sessions discussing match strategies, encouraging passionate fan participation, and leveraging social media for effective marketing and brand building.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have engaged their fans by involving them as the 12th man. RCB conducts special online events and interactions for the fans under this initiative, fostering a close-knit community.

This 12th-man army has their own Instagram handle.

Gujarat Titans have their own Titans fan app while Kolkata Knight Riders have the Knight Club app. These apps provide exclusive content and experiences, enhancing fan engagement and interaction with the team, keeping fans closely connected to the team.

Rajasthan Royals' video podcasts offer candid insights, adding a personal touch to their social media communication and captivating fans.

IPL franchises

By offering exclusive content, IPL teams deepen their relationship with fans, create dedicated fan communities, and strategically leverage digital platforms to enhance brand loyalty and engagement.

5. Hashtags of IPL franchises

Teams are seen using hashtags to reach out to a wider audience and foster a strong sense of belonging among their fan bases, uniting them under a common banner of support. While fans use hashtags to show their support, effectively extending the team's reach across social media platforms.

#Yellove, #OneFamily, #PlayBold, #AavaDe, #OrangeArmy, #SaddaPunjab, #KorboLorboJeetbo, #HallaBol, #YehHaiNayiDilli- each of these hashtags represent the spirit and identity of respective teams Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gujarat Titans, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Punjab Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals, and Delhi Capitals. 

Through these hashtags, these teams leverage the power of social media to enhance their brand presence, engage with fans on a global scale, and create a community.

The social presence of IPL franchises is a crucial factor in their overall success. By leveraging social media, implementing unique strategies, and launching engaging campaigns, franchises are building strong fan bases and increasing their brand value both within and outside the cricket world.

In the world of IPL franchises, social presence is like hitting a sixer and teams want to score big! It is no more about just the runs on the pitch, but also the likes, shares, and retweets off the pitch that determine their success in the ‘Social Media Premier League’ where teams compete fiercely to be the champions of engagement throughout the year.

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