Can Branding in IPL be the Game Changer for Indian Start-ups

IPL has brought a fundamental paradigm shift in the way start-ups view their brand making strategy.


With a value of $ 5.7 billion, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has become one of the most valuable Indian brands to be built in a short time span. The importance of branding in IPL lies in more than just the eight-week long event – in the impact the game has on the audience.

The Indian Premier League has been a success that goes beyond the commercial space. It is a new cricket brand and a new entertainment brand, which is now competing with conventional modes of entertainment. 

Many experts have written about it and it is the subject of case studies taught in B schools. Along with all its local flavours, it is connected to pan-India audiences. Globally, the IPL has always established India as the centre of cricketing power.

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IPL is contributing significantly to promote the Atmanirbhar Bharat movement and allowing Indian companies to develop their brands.

Branding in IPL – A dream destination for Indian start-ups 

The Indian Premier League of Cricket (IPL) ushered a huge brand consisting of games, players and famous stars. For sports fans, this is a long and unexpected adventure. According to Brand Finance’s report, the league ranks sixth among other sports leagues in the world in valuation and strategic recommendations at $5.7 billion.

The event has turned into a mega platform for businesses to showcase their mettle. Interestingly, there are four start-ups from the digital world among the top sponsors in this season’s IPL. Fantasy sports brand Dream11 is one of the main sponsors, and it purchased half-price ownership of Chinese brand Vivo’s rights for approximately Rs 222 crore in 2020. Besides, the educational technology start-up Unacademy was also the official partner of IPL 2020.

Branding in IPL is a New Niche for Unicorn Start-Ups

COIVD-19 suspended sports events and recreational activities globally, and the IPL also lost its vigour in ultra-rich sponsors and brand endorsements. Before the pandemic hit, DLF, Pepsi and Vivo were the main sponsors of IPL. While Vivo withdrew its support amid geopolitical strain between India and China, sponsorship support from other groups also receded.

Although the pandemic directly affected sports sponsorship, the championship gained momentum thanks to new start-ups occupying the place as advertisers and sponsors. Despite the economic downturn, IPL still is one of the largest sports leagues in the world. And effectively, it is a well sought-after brand marketing platform. The sponsors of the IPL 2020 passed the Rs 500 crore milestone. Backed by start-ups like Unacademy, Dream11, Byju’s and CRED, it is clear that IPL is now open to small and medium-sized businesses, along with large companies.

Start-Ups Branding in IPL are Leveraging Beyond Sponsorships

In the age of the internet, digital advertising has become more important than outdoor advertising. And companies use IPL for marketing their brand to the people. IPL is an excellent opportunity for business as it coincides with the most celebrated event in India that is cricket. In IPL 2019, advertising spending increased 100% as 246 brands advertised in the event.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased digital consumption by enormous leaps and bounds. As a result, online platforms have opened up new avenues for advertisers to reach consumers. Experts believe that companies choose IPL marketing because most people work from home and spend a lot of time online. And most of them watch IPL matches on streaming platforms and TV.

Going in the Future, What’s in it for the Businesses? 

The IPL is so big that even the coronavirus outbreak did not stop its progression. For security reasons, the 2020 season of the game was held in the United Arab Emirates. It helped the entire IPL spectrum to win a large audience. IPL events will continue to happen in the future no matter what.

To gain worldwide attention and popularity, the slogan “Vocal for Local” has bolstered national brands’ confidence, and start-ups have seen tremendous momentum in their prospects. IPL’s international appeal is seen as an opportunity for companies to stand out in the world market. It can be said that with the help of IPL, attitudes towards national brands and Indian companies are changing.

IPL is contributing significantly to promote the Atmanirbhar Bharat movement and allowing Indian companies to develop their brands. With its collectively engaging and procedural cricket games that are most popular among Indians, IPL has become an emerging market that celebrates creativity and innovation and attracts companies and digital start-ups.

Aakash Sharma
Aakash Sharma
Aakash writes on Startup Ecosystem, Policies, Legal and Regulatory aspects of business planning. An alum of Delhi University, he is assistant editor at Dutch Uncles.

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