Amidst the commotion and disquietude surrounding general elections in the country, Indian cricket fans still made it a point to enjoy the Indian Premier League (IPL) this season and now all their eyes are on Cricket World Cup. IPL and such other sports events have proved to be a good opportunity for apparel companies, especially to create and increase their visibility, reach in the market. This perception gets strengthened by the fact that eight teams of IPL have around 12 sponsors from the apparel industry. Not only IPL, but also the Indian Super League, The Pro Kabaddi League, Premier Badminton League and many emerging sports events are witnessing a good number of apparel brands or retailers as sponsors or associates. So what attracts well-established brands as well as upcoming brands towards such events and what they gain out of these? And,what exactly is their strategy…Apparel Resources tries to find out the answers to these sought-after questions by talking to some of these companies and arrives at some interesting observations.
As far as sportswear brands are concerned, it is normal for them to get associated with any sporting event as it is a good opportunity for them to target the key market directly and especially in case of IPL which is one of the most in demand sports leagues in India. Alcis, a high-quality sportswear brand, is associated with Rajasthan Royals. Roshan Baid, MD and Founder of the brand said, “IPL is the most watched and premium sports league in India. It is but natural to get associated with the best event in India and have the ability to provide kits to international cricketers who are competing at the highest level of competition.” But why Rajasthan Royals was the choice for Alcis? To this, Baid emphatically answered, “Our brand ethos displays challenger brand characteristics which also happens to be the DNA of the Rajasthan Royals as IPL has been dominated by Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings over the years. Secondly, Rajasthan is a very important market for us as we have opened five stores in the state recently, and hence the fit and brand alignment was very natural.”
Though brands are not willing to share how much they invested in sponsorship, they are very much clear about what are their expectations and what they exactly get against their investments. “Delivering to IPL teams is proof of our organisational capabilities in terms of providing world-class quality, design, quantity, service, etc. Since we partner also the merchandise part, it also proves our selling and merchandising capabilities,” said Bijesh Todi, Mentor and Advisor, T10 Sports. T10 Sports is a growing brand based at Gurgaon, so it is connected itself with Kings XI Punjab to encash the fan base in the northern part of India. He further added, “IPL is the biggest sporting event in India and to be associated with the event is a great sense of achievement for us. Kitting for the franchise is such a crucial thing and implementing it successfully itself is a great motivation for us.”
Alcis measures ROI by the brand awareness that gets created in terms of eyeballs and viewership. The viewership of this year’s IPL was at an all-time high and Alcis logo was made visible heavily during prime time matches, as well as in the print and social media. “Our logo was also present on giant match screens during all home games which also created brand recall with the crowd,” said Roshan. The brand targeted branding as well as an increase in sale through IPL. However, it also created a whole range of fanwear merchandise which was put up at strategic locations at the Jaipur stadium and it generated good sales. The brand has been selling a lot of match jerseys on its own website and also runs various in-store retail contests, and with the help of its e-commerce partners, overall uptake has been seen in both Royal merchandise and Alcis sales.
In between this race for branding, reach, increasing sales, there are different kinds of risk and challenges involved when an apparel/textile-based company becomes a sponsor. For a brand, the major risk is from fake and cheap products that compete with IPL sponsors generally. Alcis was able to mitigate this risk of counterfeit products by producing high quality and attractive yet highly affordable fanwear merchandise which forced the fans to buy from the official merchandise partner. “Obviously while partnering with the franchise in IPL, where stakes are so high, risks and challenges come along. Delivery of kits on time becomes such a crucial thing for us as the sponsors’ logos come at the last moment. Secondly, we have to make sure that sponsors’ logos are as per guidelines and come out well on Jerseys, as they invest a lot of money for same. But, as a sportswear brand, we take these challenges as opportunities to grow ourselves,” says Bijesh.
Then there are some brands that associate with the team or players for the long term while few do not. Apart from getting expected results or strategic priorities and other financial considerations, team performance, increasing cost of sponsorship are other important issues as these grow substantially along with the growing viewership and overall popularity of IPL. “Sometimes, brands take a strategic call to exit from cricket as has been the case with Nike recently where they have not continued their investment of being the official Indian team kit partner,” said Roshan whose current tie-up with Rajasthan Royals is for three years and positive about future too. While Bijesh sees it as an opportunity to associate with the event and at the same time make his brand visible to the client base, his company will continue to partner with national and international level tournaments in future also.
Domestic brands are not just limited to IPL or cricket. TT Garments, Delhi has announced its association with leading Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia, who is the brand ambassador for TT innerwear brand.
“When we partner with any team or league, our main aim is to connect with the sports industry and provide high-quality apparels to teams and by doing what we think is the best way to have a presence on national TV; so for us, it is more of a branding exercise rather than thinking of increasing sales or revenue from it,” – Bijesh Todi, Mentor and Advisor, T10 Sports
Brands investing in IPL
|T10 Sports||Ed Hardy|
|Lux Cozi||Shiv Naresh|