IPL trophy(Twitter/BCCI)
IPL trophy(Twitter/BCCI)

Dream11 wins IPL title rights at 50 percent discount

IPL 2020: Sponsorship Fantasy gaming platform Dream11 clinched the deal with a bid of Rs 222 crore for this year’s League to be held in UAE.
Mumbai | By Rasesh Mandani
UPDATED ON AUG 19, 2020 08:27 AM IST

Dream11, a market leader in the fantasy gaming space, will be the title sponsor of the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season after it was awarded the sponsorship rights for Rs 222 crore on Tuesday - nearly half the Rs 440 crore Vivo India, the Indian arm of the Chinese smartphone maker, was paying.

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“In the given circumstances, we are happy with the deal. These rights are only for four months and only for this edition of the IPL,” the tournament’s chairman Brijesh Patel said.

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Two other companies were in the running for rights to the 13th edition of the IPL, which will begin in the United Arab Emirates on September 19 - Byju’s, which placed a bid of Rs 201 crore, and Unacademy, whose bid was Rs 171 crore. Both are education technology companies; Byju’s is the jersey sponsor for the Indian cricket team.

Earlier this month, Vivo, which holds the title sponsorship rights for the IPL for five years till 2021 for which it agreed to pay Rs 2,199 crore, decided to suspend its partnership with the Board of Control for Cricket in India for the 2020 season.

Although no reason was cited by either party, the decision came in the backdrop of anti-China sentiment in India after military tensions between the two countries along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, where a violent brawl on June 15 resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of Chinese troops.

Dream11 has a Chinese investor - internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd.

BCCI has roped in two more associate partners for the IPL in Unacademy and Cred, a credit card billing platform. Tata Altroz and Ceat Tyres remain the other associate sponsors while the Future Group has exited, said Patel.

Bankrolling the IPL is a bold but not unexpected move from an entity in a fledgling industry that has seen rapid growth in the last five years.

From a base of two million users in 2016, fantasy gaming platforms have over 90 million users now, according to a report by accounting firm KPMG published earlier this year.

The overall Indian revenue from fantasy gaming rose from Rs 920 crore in March 2019 to Rs 2,470 crore in 12 months, according to the report, which also pegged the total value of the industry at Rs 16,500 crore.

Dream11 is the most prominent player in fantasy gaming, and was already a key sponsor for BCCI. Every fantasy gaming company in India has a major cricketer or former cricketer on board as brand ambassador. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who captains the IPL team Chennai Super Kings, is the brand ambassador for Dream11; BCCI president Sourav Ganguly is the face of My11Circle; MyTeam11 has Virender Sehwag; and Mobile Premier League (MPL), which calls itself an e-sport platform, has Virat Kohli. MPL will be the principal sponsors of Kolkata Knight Riders this year.

“Cricket advertising has always been transitional. Seven or eight years ago, we had the telecom brands. Then came the smartphone brands. Now it’s well-funded start-ups and the fantasy gaming companies,” said Siddharth Raman, chief business officer at Sportz Interactive, a sports data analytics company that also helps companies develop gaming platforms.

Avik Kanungo, director, brand and marketing strategy, Games 24x7 (My11Circle), explained how roping in former Indian cricket captain Ganguly, helped. “It’s the only platform where users get a chance to beat Sourav’s fantasy team. We have grown to number three in the segment in a single year.”

These companies not only spend heavily on cricketing brand ambassadors and sponsorships, but are also big advertisers during the IPL.

“Dream11 will shell out at least Rs 50 crore of advertising inventory to supplement its rights deal,” said an industry expert who did not wish to be named. My11Circle confirmed they will go big with “inventory buys in live IPL matches both on Star, Hotstar and other strategic partnerships.”

The fantasy gaming industry has had to fight a legal battle for acceptance too, after a public interest litigation was filed claiming that it is a gambling platform. It was only in July last year that the Bombay high court dismissed the petition.

But the industry continues to face regulatory challenges. Recently, a fake league was busted in Mohali. It was being streamed on Fan Code, whose parent company, Dream Sport, also run Dream11. Fan Code claims that is an aggrieved party, and the matter is being investigated by the police.

country meant Vivo did not see business sense in continuing the deal and advertise heavily this year.

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