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IPL 2013

April 10, 2013

The IPL can learn from other sports leagues

Ramakanth Josyula


Kolkata fans at Eden Gardens, Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals, IPL 2012, Kolkata, April 13, 2012
Selling season tickets is one way to increase fan base © AFP
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In its sixth season, the IPL has sustained its viewership incredibly well. What it has not been able to achieve are consistent full houses at all stadiums. A perfect example would be the Hyderabad stadium, which had empty stands. It is here that the IPL can learn from different city-based sports leagues in the USA and UK.

The marketing strategies used by these leagues cannot be used by the IPL because of the obvious differences, but there are a few good initiatives that can help improve the brand. In the case of NFL and NBA, the lack of international games works in their favour. Since the audience does not support the national team every month, it is easier for them to support the home side and look at every other side as rivals. For cricket, this is not plausible given that, for 10 months in a year, an Indian viewer supports the 15 players who play for India. To suddenly ask them to support a city side and consider another Indian player a rival is a tough ask. This is where the marketing of the IPL teams has faltered slightly in previous years.

Cricket is a religion in India and most of the spectators who thronged the IPL in its first two seasons came to watch the cricket first and then support their home side, if they felt like doing so. If the franchises had used 'cricket' as a brand and aggressively promoted the stadium experience, they could have achieved better results. A Deccan Chargers game with Mumbai Indians should have had publicity that featured Sachin Tendulkar. Once the spectators were in the stadium, the strategy should have then shifted to converting them into loyal fans of the home city. Cricket is still the big draw for a lot of Indians and fans also support other teams that feature their favourite players.

 
Cricket is a religion in India and most of the spectators who thronged the IPL in its first two seasons came to watch the cricket first and then support their home side, if they felt like doing so.
 

The ticket structure also needs some innovation. The ideal way to increase the fan base is to have repeat audience who come regularly to the game. Like the NFL, selling season tickets is a way of increasing the fan base. A prepaid, discounted season pass also ensures a high percentage of repeat audience since those who have a pass would not like to waste it. Franchises should also try to bring in people at the half-way stage of a game, selling available tickets at reduced prices to attract crowds.

There are other initiatives the IPL could consider, around the idea of season tickets. For instance, giving season-ticket holders extra privileges, like interactions with players, discounted rates for merchandise and access to choose their seats. Franchises would also benefit considerably in tying up with universities and colleges, giving youth access to season passes. The masses who make up the vast majority of the crowd at a stadium should be encouraged to buy more than one ticket at a time for a free franchise fan t-shirt. While the free merchandise is tempting, it will also increase the number of people wearing team colours on game day, creating a sense of loyalty with the team.

Another factor that works against the IPL is the timing of the matches. The 4pm and 8pm slots do not help the office-going audience. Moving the games to 6pm and 9pm, and ensuring that they end on time will bring more spectators to the game.

Until the IPL began, April was a month for big movie releases. Marketing for the IPL can also involve attracting the movie-going public to the game. This can be done by either showcasing the three-hour game as an alternate entertainment experience at the stadium or by having live screenings of matches in theatres. The experience of watching players on the big screen in a stadium-like atmosphere at a low cost is an attractive prospect.

Lastly, sustaining year-round loyalty when a team only plays for 10 weeks a year is a difficult task. Having franchises develop their teams by having under-15, under-17, under-19 and under-21 tournaments periodically, without compromising domestic schedules, will help the franchise reach out to loyal fans and also build fan bases for local players who impress as they rise through the ranks.

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Posted by itsthewayuplay on (April 12, 2013, 12:10 GMT)

A good article with some interesting points. The author though has missed the important factor and that is the experience for the fan in the stadium. Seats are uncomfortable, water is no longer allowed to be taken inside, toilets facilities are disgraceful and no shade from the sun. Some stadia are so badly planned that half the field is in the shadow and the other half is bright. Whilst the IPL machine continues to make money, I don't see the BCCI taking any actions to address any of these issues. Their philosphy seems to be - if ain't broke, don't fix it when they should be asking the question how can we makw each game an event or specatacle not to be missed. A few years ago, a test match was not shown in the state where the game was played until the ground was full. May not work in India because the tv the overall tv audience could compensate for an empty ground but should be considered.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 11:15 GMT)

Not a good article. They only see how to improve the overall crowd taking cue from other sports. Most of these cues wont work for IPL. For starters even 8PM match is late in india. One should check the infrastructure available for people to go back to home at night. If it is moved to 9PM, the crowd will reduce and not increase. And what kind of timing they are talking? 6PM and 9PM? Only 3hrs gap. Thats not enough for cricket, may be for NFL. You should check the matches starting at 4PM. All the Saturday/Sunday/National holiday will have matches at 4PM and local holidays are handled accordingly. April-11 is Ugadi and holiday in bangalore and they had a match. Interaction with players? Thats for the sponsers like Vodofone and is already used. The author should first learn about cricket and then about India, maybe perhaps he can write articles on how to increase the crowd for IPL

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 10:03 GMT)

Sir we are indians. except for few states where football and hockey are still considered as sports no other state support their teams. rest all support players. IPL is a FLOP if compared to EPL. This is just a money making machine. IPL proves that for countries growth we take loan from other countries but we can thrown crores in buying a foreign players.

Posted by ramonster on (April 12, 2013, 8:10 GMT)

Some great ideas in the articler ramakanth. I think season tickets is a great idea, need to be carefully on the price though so that its affordable for the layman.

Posted by   on (April 12, 2013, 7:17 GMT)

Valid points. Ticket prices are high and it reduces no. of repeated audience. And selling tickets after the match commences is good thought.

Posted by sapthagiri_186 on (April 12, 2013, 5:20 GMT)

Firstly, Hyderabad had good IPL team(DC) but the management was neither interested nor bothered about its fans, that could be through social networking or in person. While all other IPL teams had good websites, busy social networking, DC had a worst website and dull social networking activities. Now the team management had changed and so is the name, SRH. However, it is not able to pull the crowd to the stadiums, one simple reason is that SRH has got no flamboyant Indian/Foreign icon player (last season DC had sold Pietersen to DD, disgusting business planning). In Mumbai, people go to the stadium even if the ticket rates are high, because they can watch Sachin, but in Hyderabad, whom would people go and watch. There are certain interesting points in the article but hope the IPL franchisees notices these and follow them, so that cricket remains cricket and crowd starts filling the empty stands of the stadium.

Posted by sapthagiri_186 on (April 12, 2013, 5:13 GMT)

In your life you will never see Hyderabad stadium fill until and unless you have Sachin Tednulkar in the stadium. Me and my friends went to 2 IPL matches during IPL4 , one for DCvMI and during this match the whole stadium was packed and we were standing and watching the game. Two days later we again went to DCvKKR and the stands were empty again. During the recent IndvAus match at Hyderabad, I went on Day1 & everyone wanted India to win toss & loose 2 early wickets so that we can watch Tendulkar bat & unfortunately, India lost toss. On Day 2, India lost only 1 wicket while posting a mammoth total on the board. It was on Day3, when Sachin came to bat & the crowd was happy.

Posted by SJ_NR on (April 12, 2013, 1:59 GMT)

Good story. I will NEVER set foot in a stadium to watch cricket - this coming from someone who has been a regular at the MAC Chennai for three decades. Not to clean toilets, outrageous and not too hygienic food at astronomical prices for infantile portions, are just two reasons. They don't even allow us to carry water - it is daylight robbery asking us to pay 10 rupees for a glass of water. I regret the single IPL match that I watched live - it is another matter that I am not a fan of IPL, but was forced accompany my daughter.

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