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Startups retreat from IPL 2024 sponsorships; packed cricket season impacts ROIs per event

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Sohini Mitter

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Sohini Mitter

37 reads

With three high-profile cricket tournaments—ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, IPL 2024, and ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024—crammed into a span of 7-8 months, advertiser budgets have been split, resulting in low ROIs per event. Additionally, startups’ share of ad inventory saw a sharp decline this IPL.

May 22, 2024

7 MINS READ

Key Takeaways

  • In 2020-21, ~60% of IPL sponsors were new-age startups. That has come down to ~20% in IPL 2024, with legacy advertisers making a return
  • In the absence of free-flowing VC money, cash-strapped startups have stayed away from IPL 2024. The likes of Byju’s, CRED, Swiggy, Paytm, Unacademy, which had spent heavily until 2022, are missing from the ad roster
  • Rates for 10-second ad slots have doubled in the last 2-3 years compared to pre-COVID editions of the IPL, mostly because of free-spending unicorns
  • Many traditional, offline, and B2B brands looking to increase their visibility in Tier-2+ towns have amped up their ad budgets and IPL associations

The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 is in its final week now. There’s palpable excitement heading into the playoffs, with last Saturday’s knockout match between RCB and CSK (dubbed cricket’s El Clasico in some corners) clocking over 5 million live searches on Google Trends. As we head into the closing stages of the 50-day extravaganza, it’s worth looking at how the 17th edition of the world’s second-richest sporting league (after NFL) fared in terms of sponsorships.

The past few IPL editions each have added sponsorship revenues of roughly Rs 1,000-1,200 crore to the BCCI’s coffers. In 2024, however, there was a likely shortfall of a few hundred crores. The differential, though not very pronounced, brings forth an interesting trend that has played out this year. 

With three high-profile cricket tournaments—ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, IPL 2024, and ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024—crammed into a 7-8-month window, along with the Lok Sabha Elections thrown into the mix, advertiser budgets were pulled in multiple directions, resulting in low ROIs per event, industry insiders told The CapTable.

THE UPSHOT

Several advertisers, including traditional FMCG firms, automobile companies, and a handful of new-age digital firms which were common across all three events were compelled to reassess their IPL spending.

“We’ve seen three very high-profile cricket sponsorship vehicles in a short span. If I’m a marketing head who’s been given a Rs 100-crore budget for sponsorships, I’d want to allocate it evenly. Last year, marketing managers didn’t have this challenge. They put everything on the IPL. But this year, companies have cut down their IPL budgets because they have other options and they expect better ROIs from the World Cups,” Santosh N, managing partner at valuation services and consulting firm D & P India Advisory Services, tells The CapTable

Take IPL’s ‘Orange Cap’ and ‘Purple Cap’ category—given to the season’s best batter and bowler—for instance. The BCCI increased the base price of this sponsorship category to Rs 60 crore this year, eventually finding no takers. Saudi Aramco, which was the official partner for this in IPL 2023, didn’t participate. Media reports indicate that these kinds of top international sponsors look for long-term deals as opposed to season-by-season associations. 

Where startups fear to tread

It’s not just the overdose of cricket (and other big) events, though, that may have caused a bit of sponsorship turbulence for the BCCI this year. Among the glaring absentees from IPL 2024’s ad roster are India’s large startups and unicorns. These companies had cumulatively burned several thousand crores on the tournament over the past 3-4 years.

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