CLT20 news August 7, 2012

CLT20 signs new sponsorship deal

Karbonn Mobiles has become the third telecom company to sponsor the Champions League Twenty20 in four years, having signed a deal today with ESPNSTAR Sports (ESS), the event's commercial and broadcast partner. Karbonn replaces Nokia, who withdrew their sponsorship after just one year.

Nokia had replaced Bharti Airtel, the tournaments inaugural sponsors, in 2011. Airtel had signed a five-year deal worth $40 million reportedly to sponsor the event in 2009, but withdrew its sponsorship two years into the deal. ESS paid nearly $1 billion in 2008 for the 10-year-broadcasting rights for the tournament.

The deal gives Karbonn the "rights to on ground title sponsorship with all its entitlements," and the tournament has been rechristened the Karbonn Champions League Twenty20, according to a statement from ESS. Pradeep Jain, the managing director of Karbonn, said the tournament should help the company break through the clutter of advertisers and products and create the "right visibility amongst our target audience".

The revolving door of title sponsors highlights the troubled start the CLT20 has had, in contrast to the IPL. The event's scheduled first season in 2008 was cancelled because of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November that year. When the tournament did make its belated debut as a 12-team event in 2009, it was hurt by a more nagging problem - fans in India, cricket's largest market, showed little interest in non-IPL teams. That year the CLT20 drew an average television ratings point (TRP) of 1.06 (one TRP represents 1% of viewers in the surveyed area in a given minute), compared to an average TRP of 4.1 for the 2009 IPL, according to TAM Sports, a division of TAM Media Research, a television ratings agency.

In an effort to boost viewership, the number of IPL teams in the tournament has been increased from two to four over the years. In the first year, only the two IPL finalists qualified for the world's richest club cricket tournament. This year, all four teams that made the IPL playoffs were given direct entry to the main draw. The CLT20 also added a qualifying tournament last season. While viewership has increased with the changes, the average TRPs are still below 2. In comparison, the IPL has delivered ratings of at least 3.45 in each of its five seasons.

The fourth edition of the CLT20 will be played across four venues in South Africa: Centurion, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. Eight teams have already qualified for the main tournament, while a further six teams will complete in the qualifying stage from October 9 to October 11. The top two teams from the qualifiers - one from each group of three - will then join the other eight in the main tournament, which begins on October 13.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo