ICC, IPL and a building up sponsorship race
Having secured bumper media-rights revenue, cricket’s leading entities aim to find momentum in their quest to rebuild their commercial deals
The Indian Premier League and the International Cricket Council’s world events, mega properties enjoying the lion’s share of global cricket’s broadcast pie worth nearly $2 billion annually while the bilateral calendar shrinks, are again vying for lucrative sponsorships.
The quest of ICC and BCCI for fresh tie-ups is gathering momentum as commercial deals will be up for renewal from next year.
ICC has already signed a multi-year agreement with logistics multinational DP World that has started with the World Test Championship final. It is its first deal for the next events cycle (2024-27).
The market size of India and its passion for cricket is central to such deals. “There are other sports out there like motorsports and football but they are very expensive and the returns on investments are nowhere close to what you can get in cricket,” said Daniel Van Otterdijk, Group Chief Communications Officer, DP World.
With IPL and ICC events having defined windows, many investors in cricket segue from one to the other. DP World’s foray into cricket had come through IPL. They were logistics partners with Royal Challengers Bangalore for three years and currently sponsor Delhi Capitals.
“Our brand is now five times more valuable than it was four years ago and in large parts it is thanks to IPL,” Van Otterdijk said.
Saudi oil company Aramco first signed up with IPL and then with ICC. Fantasy sports platform Dream 11 invests in both.
Bilateral cricket in India, England and Australia still has a market but the sponsorship slant towards IPL and World Cups is evident. BCCI, which used to oppose the world body’s plan to stage an ICC event every year, has shifted focus to expanding IPL’s playing window.
While some companies find the franchise jersey too cluttered to extract real value for investment and prefer the World Cups, others believe IPL's overall package is compelling enough provided the right promotional strategies are put in place. IPL’s title rights too are up for grabs but will come at a premium.
“There’s enough space for us to grow with IPL,” Anurag Dahiya, ICC’s chief commercial officer, said. “Our events create a fantastic ecosystem for brands who want to talk to global audiences. Nothing unites fandom like a pinnacle cricket event. When India is playing at the global stage, there’s hardly anyone who doesn’t want to figure out what is happening.”
ICC’s four-year world event cycle includes the annual women’s white-ball competitions, U19 events and two WTC finals. But the men’s white-ball events – two T20 World Cups, one ODI World Cup and the Champions Trophy – remain the biggest draw.
ICC’s restructured calendar aims to make a foray into the US market, with USA Cricket slated to co-host the 2024 T20 World Cup with West Indies Cricket Board.
“Part of the attractiveness is the global spread of ICC events,” said Otterdijk. “We have a large logistics business in US with over 20,000 staff. So, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to engage with the Indian diaspora who live there.”
Every other cricket property, including non-IPL franchise competitions, are left to grapple with overlapping windows and challenges over player availability.
CHURN AND CHALLENGES
The ICC and IPL though must surmount economic challenges while building their new commercial portfolio. A churn in the crypto space saw ICC’s FTX deal go wrong last year. BCCI’s ed tech partners Byju’s walked out of the deal citing funding issues and are unlikely to extend their association with the ICC beyond the ODI World Cup in October-November.
“It’s never not challenging, and some sectors will be up and down. It doesn’t worry us,” Dahiya said. “Content is king and what we have is superb and engaging.”
On the lookout for more premium and long-term deals, ICC has tweaked its approach and will seek fewer partners this time. It currently has six top tier sponsors and 13 partners, including the latest one, added to the second tier.
Having a fully independent women’s commercial programme is still some way from becoming a reality.