Indian Premier League May 20, 2010

Ad overkill puts off IPL viewers

Tariq Engineer

The IPL has an enviable track record in maximising ad revenue by creating, and selling, space. However, a new survey by leading global ad agency Dentsu Media suggests the league may have been guilty of overkill - especially in selling ad space during overs, a new practice which, the survey finds, hasn't gone down well with fans - or, indeed, former India cricketers.

Two former India captains have recently come out strongly against these ads. "I am shocked to see the way IPL has devised new ways of making money," Bishan Singh Bedi said. "I believe the board has enough in its coffers to run a show like the IPL without ads between deliveries." Ajit Wadekar called it a "brilliant exposure" for the advertiser but not good for the viewers who want to enjoy uninterrupted cricket. "I am sure even the commentators are bothered when the live feed is cut just when they are discussing or explaining something related to the game."

"The clutter on IPL is very heavy," Naresh Gupta, head of strategic planning at Dentsu Marcom, said. "Brands will have to find ways to stand out in this clutter."

The good news is that, in its third season, the IPL reached 142 million viewers in India, up from 102 million in 2008, according to television ratings agency TAM. The bad news is overall Television Ratings Points (TRPs), a function of the number of viewers and the time spent watching, was effectively stagnant (4.7 to 4.5). The IPL may have grown its audience, but those watching did so for a shorter period of time.

The IPL's long-term success depends, apart from the TV and sponsorship deals, on a substantial and committed fan base and the trick is to balance the lucrative airtime with what the fans want. Convincing fans to stay involved is, therefore, the name of the game. A game that the survey by Dentsu - which has been tracking the IPL since its first season - suggests the IPL is yet to master.

The agency produces a pre-IPL study to analyze factors driving fandom, and a post-IPL study measuring fan engagement; this year's engagement study was conducted during the last two weeks of IPL 2010 (April 10 to April 25) and shows how far the still fledgling league has to go to capture the hearts and minds of its fans.

Dentsu looked at the engagement levels of those between the ages of 15 and 30, a key demographic according to Sanjoy Chakrabarty, CEO of Dentsu Media, because it is the biggest consumer of sport and therefore a key target audience of most brands who advertise through cricket.

The results indicate advertisers and sponsors have little reason to cheer this season. While 51% of respondents got the names of the brands that dot the teams' jerseys wrong, more than a quarter (26%) couldn't recall even a single brand.

As for the ads on TV, only a fifth of the respondents (20%) remembered any of the much-maligned mid-over ads, which were introduced this season by re-packaging the time gained from the shortened strategic time-outs.

Other ads fared the same: while 38% remembered the ads traditionally run between overs, the commercials that flashed on the side of the screen during play, like strangers sneaking into a photograph, were retained by just 9% of the group.

The report accompanying the survey is clear on what's wrong. "Instead of ads that seem to irritate viewers as they interfere with the flow of the game and thus create a negative image in the mind of the viewers, ads that continue without disrupting the game like boundary boards should be looked into," it says.

A substantial part of the IPL revenue stream is from the entertainment sector and, while this has brought in revenues, it seems to have weakened the brand's sporting quotient - 26% said they view the IPL purely as entertainment. The study quotes one respondent saying "I watch the IPL for entertainment but if there is a better substitute, then I am ready to switch."

One component was IPL Nights, a show on MTV based on the now controversial after-match parties. A lot of trouble for nothing, it seemed - 80% of the respondents said they hadn't watched the show and thought the parties could affect the player's performances on the field. The responses look prescient in the wake of India captain MS Dhoni's comments on the parties affecting the players' performances at the ICC World Twenty20. The parties' future is unclear with the league's interim chairman Chirayu Amin saying it would be stopped next year though it is protected by a formal contract.

To solve these problems, the report states "care should be taken to build the brand and ensure credibility instead of just maximizing revenue. In order to hold onto its traditional viewers, IPL must keep on innovating regularly and enhance the overall experience of watching cricket."

Meanwhile over half the respondents (52%) said their loyalty to a team was based on who their favourite cricketer played for. This could conceivably mean fans in Mumbai switching their loyalty to Pune, should Sachin Tendulkar move to the Sahara Pune Warriors. Likewise loyalties could switch with any of the other team changes expected at the next player auction. And that, more than any other result of the survey, could affect the franchises' bottom lines.

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor with Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Satya Krishna on May 21, 2010, 18:36 GMT

    Why are ppl crying on ads being telecast? They are the main reason why IPL is running successful. But one has to accept mid-over commercials is crossing the line to much. Instead of putting more number of ads at the current cost for a slot, why don't you increase the price for ad slots and confine them to just the over and wicket breaks?

  • Avradeep on May 21, 2010, 16:53 GMT

    @CricEshwar - "For people who boast about not interested in IPL, stay away from those articles as well"

    Well - i think u have got it wrong - die hard Indian cricket fans cannot stay out of IPL becoz - u have seen the after effect in two consecutive world championship tournaments and also the Champions trophy.

    and regarding the money matters: Do any other leagues arund the world not involve money?? Aren't there sporting events which are far more cash rich than the IPL?? Do u not follow them? and tell me - do they mess so much with viewing experience?

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2010, 15:56 GMT

    It's funny report talks about "Traditional Fan" :). IPL already has traditional fans that it can risk putting off? Good report though as it might help wake up IPL managers. Hopefully Lalit Modi will spend his skills in popularising F1 and may be do something for Indian Football or Hocky while some administrators who do have at least some clue about cricket as well, along with business, will balance out sport and revnue in IPL. If not, I'll be happy to see IPL going ICL way.

  • Eshwar on May 21, 2010, 12:56 GMT

    Everything is always about money. IPL is not a charity and will continue to do what it has been doing. No blaming anyone on this. If its not for the ads or the money, the tournament wouldn't have happened. For people who boast about not interested in IPL, stay away from those articles as well.

  • Avradeep on May 21, 2010, 9:15 GMT

    I am putting forward a question to everyone. What are the positive contributions of IPL to indian cricket?

    My take - in brief below

    1) How many times have you seen Yousuf Pathan, Murali Vijay, Robin Utthappa, Ravindra Jadeja etc give world class bowlers a nightmare in tracks that slightly deviate from the definition of "FLAT". One can argue Suresh raina, Dhoni, Yuvraj does so. But the point is - even before IPL 1 we knew and have been demonstrated of their abilities.

    2) What about bowlers? A terible Ishant, a fatigued Zaheer and Nehra and let alone the RPs, Balajis, Irfaans and Sreesanths. 14 matches of merciless flat track hitting - does it not demoralize the bowler psychologically?

    3) The biggest bane - bits and pieces and cricketers creeping into the indian team due to IPL.

    4) 2 consecutive IPLs have resulted in Sehwag(unarguably out best match winner) out of world cup due to injury.

    I feel that IPL is a media circus and an aberration in terms cricketing quality. Others??

  • srinath on May 21, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    "Count me in" :- I hate ads resizing screens and disturbs the rythem of spirit of watching. Guess, we should rather stop talking like this and sign up for channels with lesser ads.I wonder if we got one!--- Let me know if you guys ever knew one i sign it today!

  • abhik on May 21, 2010, 8:57 GMT

    nice article. believe me, its more comfortable to follow ipl on cricinfo rather than watching it and suffering from headache. in 2009,they introduced time-outs. now its simply impossible to tolerate those mid over commercials. dont know, what awaits for us in the next year !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Roshanth on May 21, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    Oh Yeah - this was so irritating.. How can anyone expect to get new audience to cricket if they continue to disrupt the game and most important commentaries on how and why things happen ?? I have also noticed that when ever the coverage comes on SetMax it is rubbish. First of all, it's not a full time sports channel and I guess this is the only time they make money. I think the ICC themselves should take a stance on adverts and ensure that it does not interrupt the quality of viewing of the game. If they are worried about crowd turnover, there are other measures to take as restricting the feed (or delay) in the area of play etc. But this does not mean that the cricket lovers who cannot reach the stadium should pay for the Cable TV channel and in the process also watch rubbish advertisements.

  • Saroj on May 21, 2010, 7:24 GMT

    Great report. Everything too much always ugly. I switched to youtube for less AD.

  • Dummy4 on May 21, 2010, 6:44 GMT

    Hilarious! They needed a survey to find that out. So I guess this study confirms that one of IPL's objectives is to get users to remember jersey sponsors. Since they are trying to fit IPL into the pure entertainment category, aligning it with the comedy/satire genre might be a good way forward. :-)

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