Unicorn startups aim to capitalise by sponsoring IPL

The Indian-based unicorn startups such as Cred, Unacademy, Paytm, Dream 11, and Upstox are all the official sponsors of IPL 2021.

With phase 2 of the VIVO IPL 2021 has already kicked off in the UAE, unicorn startups have already been very active with their investments in the world’s most decorated and richest cricket league.

The Indian-based unicorn startups such as Cred, Unacademy, Dream 11, Paytm and Upstox are among the official sponsors of IPL 2021. The majority of the tournament’s sponsorship has been acquired by startups while the large-cap companies include Tata Motors, Ceat Tyres, and VIVO.

These startups are capitalising heavily on this IPL season, even more than the large-cap companies. The sponsorship values for these four startups that include Cred, Unacademy, Upstox, and Dream 11 is on an average of Rs 50 crore each for the current season. While for Paytm the deal value is in the range of 30 crore.

The large-cap companies such as Tata Motors and Ceat, the sponsorship value is around 50 crore and 25 crore respectively. While the title sponsor, VIVO has paid a whopping Rs 440 crore to get the title rights for the IPL.

When the title sponsorship for IPL 2020 was up for grabs, the top three bids received were all unicorns – startups with a valuation of above USD 1 billion. Dream11, with the highest bid of INR 222 crore which was then followed by BYJU’s (INR 201 crore) and Unacademy (INR 170 crore).

Over the years, these startups have not only partnered with the league but with their teams as well. Dream 11 had been the team sponsor of CSK, DC, PBKS, KKR, MI, RR, and SRH in 2019. More than 120 companies are sponsoring various franchises this year. Sixty-five per cent of them being from the startup world.

There are several more unicorn startups apart from the ones mentioned above that have invested heavily in the IPL 2021 indirectly by partnering with the official broadcasters, Star Sports and Disney+Hotstar.

Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the VIVO IPL 2021 has roped in 18 sponsors and over 100 advertisers across multiple brand categories. The 18 sponsors on-board also includes start-ups like Dream 11, Byju’s, Phone Pe, Groww, Cred, Upstox, etc.

But the next question that comes as soon as we hear about these huge investments is that, ‘Why do these startups who are not that cash-rich, sponsor the world’s richest cricket league?’

The simple answer is that the IPL attracts a massive viewership all across the country as well as globally. IPL gives these startups massive reach and growth opportunities to scale up and achieve the aggressive milestones set up by their investors.

The return on investments that a startup gets by sponsoring the IPL is huge. With the pandemic in place and things getting digital, these startups can gain users, increase downloads and boost their valuation throughout the season. Moreover, with the technology and innovation in place, metrics like the number of users, downloads and traffic can be measured on a minute-by-minute basis by these startups while, unlike traditional companies, results can take a quarter or more to show up. For startups, it’s more about the return of mindshare on investment.

These companies use up all their marketing budget by investing in this marquee cricket league. The massive reach that these companies get through it becomes a win-win situation for the channel as well as the brand to justify such investments.

An era of association with large corporates like ITC, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, DLF, and Sahara Parivar among others has ended. The new age of digital startups has come into the picture as large sponsors, which provides huge investments to the BCCI and IPL.

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