The ITW vertical, ITW Catalyst, a sports, entertainment and media consulting firm, had a great outing in its field before the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 commenced on March 31.
With a set of heavyweights in its portfolio – Goel Group, Happilo, Mahindra, Coca-Cola, Hindware, ITC, KEI Wires and Cables, Herbalife Nutrition, and many more, ITW Catalyst facilitated 20 sponsorship deals with prominent teams like Mumbai Indians (MI), Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Chennai Super Kings (CSK), Punjab Kings (PBKS), Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), Rajasthan Royals (RR), and Delhi Capitals (DC).
In the overwhelming inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League (WPL) also, ITW Catalyst assisted RCB to attain their front of the jersey (Kajaria) and leading trouser leg sponsors (Vega Beauty) and body care sponsor for UP Warriorz (UPW).
SportsMint Media got an opportunity of speaking with Mr Paroksh Chawla, CEO – ITW Catalyst, and learn about the sports marketing and consulting firm’s recent developments. Mr Paroksh kicked off his career in banking and with a desire of pursuing a career in sports, he left the job to do post-graduation in sports management from IISWBM in Calcutta. Following his higher studies, Mr Chawla worked at GroupM for over six years before he could don the hat of a CEO at ITW Catalyst. In this conversation, Mr Paroksh went on to speak about the sponsorships facilitated, ITW Catalyst’s unique proposition, the KEI-RCB partnership, the brand’s several different marketing objectives and much more things.
1. Before the start of IPL 2023, ITW Catalyst was involved in a lot of partnerships between brands and franchises, could you please speak on that?
First of all, it’s been a very exciting year for us at ITW Catalyst, we have stitched nearly 20 associations in IPL as well as some exciting deals for WPL. We have also onboarded three brands at the League level as central sponsors. We have been preparing for the IPL season for the last six-seven months, starting with a dipstick survey of the market because it is ever-changing. And I very strongly believe that the team we have at ITW Catalyst, with a strength of 200 plus, have done a fabulous job of changing the game and now we are providing 360 solutions to all the brands we work with.
2. What do you think about the historic and lucrative budget allocation?
I see two sides to it, one is, there is huge support from the government coming in, which was obviously displayed with the budget. Also, there are a lot of CSR activities, which the brands are doing, and the government is supporting them, whether it is through financial solutions, land solutions, infrastructure, or anything else. Plus, there are a lot of business houses that are moving from sponsorship to ownership now. The brands believe that sport is the right platform to engage with the consumer, their objectives are met with sport. I strongly believe that we are becoming a truly sporting nation with our teams also performing well across the board, be it at the Olympics, or cricket, as usual. With the wide audience we have, the consumption of sports has increased, and the Indian audience is a consumer of all sports, the success of the ISL and PKL speak a lot about it. And with the IPL’s growth, I feel we are on the verge of doing something big as a country in sports.
3. How will you describe this year’s response from brands and advertisers to partner with IPL teams?
I think this year is very special. I believe in the value of IPL and we have seen that traditional brands have come forward which is a testament to the league. We’ve witnessed that brands which have never invested in sports have also come forward and now see sports as a big opportunity for their brand to achieve their objectives and drive consumer mobilization. The shift in sports is also happening as these days it provides not only branding solutions, but also activations, and content and as we know, content is king. The brands have faith in the power of sports as the right platform to achieve their marketing goals.
4. What do you consider ITW Catalyst’s unique proposition due to which the clients trust and work with the firm year after year?
The ITW Catalyst journey is phenomenal. We started with rights-holding and now we provide 360-degree sports marketing solutions. When it comes to sports, we can provide solutions anywhere in the world – we have operations in the Middle East, the UK, and have recently opened our US offices as well. Whether it is media solutions, digital solutions, activations, celebrity partnerships, or sponsorships and even managing leagues. We have done it all, and done it well setting the precedent, and we’ve been doing it across the world. So, I would say ITW Catalyst has become a one-stop solution for many brands and that’s why they trust us. For Catalyst, the last four years have been phenomenal. We strongly believe in the brand-first strategy, we work on the return on objectives and match it with the return on an opportunity. Our ROI is balanced, and it is a very important metric, and in the mix of the three is where ITW stands, and that’s what makes us unique.
5. Could you please elaborate on what happened behind the scenes in this partnership between KEI and RCB?
We have had a relationship with KEI for the last two years, specifically. KEI has been a steady investor in cricket, and they have partnered with the IPL six times before this as they had successful partnerships with Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Rajasthan Royals (RR). So, KEI had three objectives, the number one being direct consumer sales, they are one of the biggest when it comes to B2B, but I think B2C is where their focus is now, due to which sports make a lot of sense. And for that, I think a recall is very important and we are working on the branding exercise, they have done a year-long partnership with us on ITW properties and bilateral cricket. On the other hand, they have also invested in kabaddi through us and now with RCB in IPL. They have maximized this partnership through consumer engagement initiatives like using tickets, meet and greets, content and activating trade consumers. Trying to increase engagement was the primary objective and we felt that an association with a team like RCB who have arguably one of the largest fan bases would be the right fit. They are an eight-thousand crore company right now and they look in very good shape to get maximum market share from here.
6. Does the ITW Catalyst have plans of pushing its brands towards the WTC Final, Asia Cup and the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup after the IPL?
We don’t believe in a push strategy at all as we are consultants who work as an extension of the brand, and if the property makes sense for a brand then definitely we will suggest a partnership, that would be one of the opportunities which brands will consider.
7. How do you measure ROI and success of IPL team partnerships and does ITW Catalyst help the brands in the post-valuation?
ITW Catalyst is in the business of end-to-end solutions. Right from identification to negotiation to the packaging of the partnership to representing brands on multiple folds, whether it is just teams, or dealer meets activations, we cover all of that. On the other hand, everything boils down to the post-evaluation and we have an in-house team, which does that, we also use many international tools to work on those post-evaluations. And the success of an IPL association specifically has a quantitative and qualitative analysis in my mind. A quantitative would be where, and how many people were engaged, while the brand can have a target in their mind when it comes to exposure and impressions. If a brand has managed to get good numbers of impressions, and if that matches their target then definitely, that’s a good campaign. On the other hand, the qualitative measures need to be activated as well because, you know, something like watching a match is a money-can’t-buy experience. With IPL coming back to its natural avatar, it helps. So, I feel that there are two sides to measurement, quantitative and qualitative and both need to satisfy the brands.
8. Do you think IPL coming back to its original avatar may be one of the reasons for the brands to partner with the franchises?
It is one of the reasons as well, but during COVID-19, there was a huge response from brands as well. I very strongly believe that IPL is one of the most flexible properties in sports. When the pandemic was at its peak, the teams and BCCI came up with new alternatives to cater to brands, But now with the IPL going back to its roots, and most importantly back to the fans it will give consume the touch and feel of the league which was missing over the last few seasons. Having said that, I think that the BCCI and IPL teams have been phenomenal in doing what they have done till now.
9. How do you suggest Delhi vs Bangalore vs Mumbai vs Kolkata to brands? So does any team bring any unique proposition? Or it’s mostly about pricing and the available assets?
I don’t think there’s a Delhi, Bombay, or Calcutta-specific brand, The market is key for any brand, a brand can be based out of Delhi, but it can have Southern India as a bigger market. So, our first step is – always start with identification. When we get the objectives from the client, it can be the client’s decision to activate a particular market, it can be a struggling market or it can be their strongest market. There is no difference between any team, every team is a top team in IPL, and everybody provides their unique solutions with the unique reach they have and the performance they have displayed in past. It is completely at the client’s discretion on what kind of solution a team can bolster for the activation of a brand. So, I believe that every team is ideal and, in the end, it’s all about the requirement of the brand.
10. Since you work with the IPL teams, so do you travel extensively travel during the IPL?
Yes, we’ve been on the go for the last 15 days, specifically preparing for all the shoots, content, meet and greets, which are going to happen. And I feel that in the next 75 days, again, we will be on the go. We’ve been geared up for the IPL and with the brands currently based throughout India, we’ve been on the move since January itself.