The business of the Indian Premier League is now a much talked about subject and the jawdropping figures being bandied about say enough about the scale and the potential for success the market sees in the final offering of the IPL.
The winners in the entire game are undoubtedly the players — rewarded for performance as well as an ability to capture the public imagination as pop culture icons. Hence you see a Dhoni (omnipresent in advertising campaigns) being the highest paid player. Or, young Ishant Sharma, all of 19, but getting paid for the X-factor he brings a team.
This is because the economic essence of the team is its fan base: the essence of all club games in all formats of sport. The fan will drive sales of tickets at the venue, sale of memorabilia and souvenirs and most importantly, television viewership.
Once you get the fan involved, the whole giant engine kicks into gear. The viewership ensures advertising revenue, which, in turn, fuels the broadcast partner, who pays the franchisees, who finally reward their players and adds his fan base to their own.
The business risk is clear: It needs full stadiums and great TAM TRP ratings. Without that, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the marketer to continue to sell all the market deliverables needed to keep the league going. The risks? Is there too much cricket and would it be an overkill? Or will the market actually expand by the introduction of a shorter, more entertaining format?
Glamour can create interest. It cannot drive the sport so we see the Mohali team being reduced to getting Preity Zinta to sell tickets. Compare that to an international ODI where you cannot get tickets for love or for money.
Another major issue of concern to a sports marketer is that of product exclusivity in a category. The sanctity of this is maintained across the entire spectrum of sport and is being flagrantly violated in the case of the IPL.
Hence we have construction major DLF being the presenter of the series, GMR being owner of a team, HDIL being co-sponsor for Knight Riders and Virender Sehwag endorsing Sahara Infrastructure.
The disillusion of the sponsors with the vehicle is bound to come in and if they begin to pull back, it threatens the whole edifice.
Yet another will be player fatigue and the IPL delivery on the promise of showcasing stars and not nondescript players from the catchment.
This has been the bane of Ranji trophy and perhaps explains why the Indian Cricket League viewerships have been low despite every starlet in Bollywood shaking a leg for the league. Still, we live in exciting times and may the best team win!!!
That used to be India!!!
(Latika is the managing director of Collage Sports Management and manages stars like Sehwag and Ishant)