The action-packed ODI cricket season with the stakes as high as ever has kept brands on their toes. With brands jumping on the cricket bandwagon in Asia to acquire tumultuous exposure, the sports business arena has been buzzing for the past two months.
Amid the chaos, SportsMint Media got the opportunity to interact with Mr Joshey John, Director & Sales Head at ITW, who played a notable role in facilitating multiple on-air and on-ground deals for the recently concluded Asia Cup 2023 and the ongoing ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.
In this exclusive interview, Mr Joshey went on to speak about the opportunities a brand could concur due to technological enhancements, Amul‘s rich sports sponsorship ventures and the state of the prestigious ODI format in terms of viewership and business.
1. How are technological advancements providing new opportunities for brands during on-air sports associations?
Technology has evolved significantly since the last World Cup. And brands are also looking at newer opportunities to reach those target audiences. This is one sector where you can rapidly see the changes happening. Digital is growing at a massive rate, and in the current media rights cycle of IPL, the value for digital is greater than linear. The users on digital have also grown because of internet penetration. For the recently concluded Asia Cup and the ongoing World Cup, on the digital platform, a lot of newer provisions have come up compared to the 2019 World Cup.
There are about 70 cohorts along with vertical ads, due to which brands can customise their campaigns based on what they are looking at. Geo-targeting is booming, and if a brand only wants to target metros along with a sub-target, it is possible this time around. In the 2019 World Cup, Connected TVs used to be a jumbled property. But for the ongoing WC, if a brand doesn’t want to take up CTV as a combined property it can only go with CTV, as well. For the WC, we also have premium targeting on mobiles, last time, it was only catered to CTV. Premium audience targeting is done by understanding how the user spends time on his/her phone. Does the user do online shopping, use an expensive phone, watch English content, buy costly watches, etc? Due to all these facilities, advertisers, even with a limited budget, can cater to a certain audience. Technology is an evolving process and it will probably change for the next 50-over World Cup.
2. How would you judge Amul’s tactic in sports sponsorships over the last few years?
Amul has done strategic buys in sports over some time, even for this ongoing World Cup, instead of taking up big ticket sponsorships, they have partnered with teams because they are looking at visibility through the jersey sponsorships. The matches go on for eight hours, and when you take up three different teams out of the lot, the amount of on-air views throughout all the fixtures will be humongous.
Sponsorship through teams is one World Cup affair, and partnering with multiple teams enhances the visibility. ITW has been part of these associations because we also have long-term arrangements with Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and Cricket South Africa (CSA).
3. Could you please differentiate and tell in detail about the on-ground sponsor, team sponsor, and on-air sponsor?
The IPL, Asia Cup, and World Cup have different on-ground central sponsorships because they have different formats and time durations. In an Asia Cup, there are fewer brands, compared to a World Cup. From an on-ground perspective, it is also about leveraging the in-stadia assets. For example, Volkswagen had a real display of a car in the stadium during the match, a brand can have visibility of its product. For the Asia Cup, Volkswagen came along with Taigun, when it is visible in a live match, over a period of time, it is an activation and experience which could only be bought during an on-ground association. On-ground sponsorship also provides provisions like LED perimeters and TV screens.
In terms of team sponsorship, the brand could partner up with a lot of teams. The entity could use a player in its communication. It depends on how well a brand creates the content and it gets visibility from the jersey as well. For example, Amul has signed up with three different teams, due to the multi-team sponsorship, the brand can generate a lot more content as compared to one and could also generate more visibility.
Talking about TV, that’s where the big-ticket campaigns come into the picture. In an on-air association, the communication is a lot more, because brands can create ads. A lot of brands during the IPL or World Cup release new ads and introduce new faces as brand endorsers.
4. How do brands with smaller appetites stand out in a big-ticket cricket competition?
In India, cricket sells, no matter how much it has been played or viewed. The Asia Cup is a great example because 266 million viewers watched the Live broadcast, excluding the finals. The 2023 edition was before the World Cup, a lot of people said that there could be fatigue but despite that, we had a mammoth viewership. There are limited sponsors when it comes to ground sponsorship.
Only brands with a certain appetite could take up the on-ground sponsorships, but there are other fruitful on-air opportunities too. ITW partnered with the board and broadcasters and came up with properties like the Hawkeye and Boundary Counter, which were affordable enough for brands with smaller appetites.
5. In this day and age of T20 Cricket, how does ODI cricket lure brands?
Since the beginning of the IPL, the T20 format has become very popular. But ODI and T20I can co-exist because there are so many T20 leagues happening around the globe. There are leagues organized by private players, not just the cricket associations or national cricket boards. Because of so many T20 competitions, ODI has become a niche, as it is mostly played by bigger countries.
After the Asia Cup, we had the India-Australia series because it was two big cricketing nations playing the ODI format there were buyers for that series too. As long as bilateral cricket is prevalent, there will always be a place for ODI cricket.