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Opinion: IPL Marketing on a shoestring budget – how to market during IPL without investing in IPL

IPL Marketing, while effective, can be an expensive affair. The entry cost itself in an official setup can cause a dent in your marketing budget. So, does this mean for smaller brands or any brand for that matter, on a shoestring budget, IPL is not the way to go? Anil Nair shares some tips on how to get into IPL marketing without actually investing in IPL.

IPL – the three magic letters that release a wave of energy and adrenaline through most Indian marketers. The crowning glory in the Indian marketing calendar. It’s where the who’s who of Indian brands parade their new launches, campaigns and crazy innovations. Where unicorn brands-in-waiting spring their larger than life ambitions using a galaxy of cricketers, film stars and what have you. It’s a true carnival that combines cricket, cinema and big money; a heady concoction guaranteed to deliver high octane visibility and results. And neither pandemic, war nor competition are able to stop this ever-growing juggernaut.

This begs the middle-class question of affordability. What should brands with shallow pockets do during these 8 weeks of festivities?

Look wistfully from the sidelines, hoping and wishing that they might be able to see their logos on the trophy or winners’ podium someday or should they find some way to partake in the general zeitgeist?
The answer lies in turning your gaze from the tournament and all the hullabaloo surrounding it to, in fact, taking a deeper look at your consumer.

And let’s be honest. IPL and T20 have truly democratised cricket and taken it into Customer franchises hitherto unimaginable. States and regions that were not very cricket friendly, the female audiences, the retired population, the NRIs. There isn’t a section of the Indian diaspora left untouched by this spectacle.
And, as a marketer, one is therefore obliged to participate unofficially in one’s customer’s enthusiasm for IPL, its stars and the drama over the ensuing seven weeks.

History is rife with case studies of brands cleverly hacking large sporting events without officially being a part of the event. The famous 1996 Pepsi ‘Nothing Official About It’ campaign and the Virgin Mobile Indian Panga league are stellar case studies of guerilla marketing, disruption and competition hacking. But these were large audacious campaigns meant to hurt and disrupt. What if one does not have the stomach for such investments and yet one wants to have a small piece of the cricket mind space?

Also Read: IPL 2022 Campaigns: New age brands, nostalgic narratives & celebrity endorsements…

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Let me first start with the red flags:

  1. Be careful of legal quicksand. One should steer clear of using team logos, tournament logos, and any other official piece of merchandise on any campaign collateral.
  2. You may have worked with a cricketer before. But re-read the contracts and run everything through legal just for safety.

And now that we have that out of way let’s get back to our consumers and figure out fun ways to engage them while they celebrate the festival of cricket.

  • Use your social media to the hilt. Be creative with your content. Use trivia, celebrate a great sporting attitude, and allude to stuff. Consumers are clever and they get things. They may even appreciate the fact that you are a David fighting Goliaths.
  • Create open-ended conversations with your consumers and followers. No one can stop your followers from speaking their minds on your platform. Spark the right kind of contextual and relevant conversations and then sit back to watch the fun.
  • Use turn of phrase and sleight of hand. Follow the tournament and celebrate the progress along with your followers in an unofficial capacity.
  • It’s generally a ‘deceive’ period and customers expect promotions and giveaways. Be the most generous during this period. Sometimes small acts of kindness trump big media bucks.
  • Look out for counter-culture. All large tournaments have their share of controversies, chills and thrills. Remember the Fake IPL player controversy? Put on your moment marketing hat and be ready. You never know when Lady Luck will shine.
  • Check for clever ways to integrate your brand usage into the IPL watching lifestyle. Be it a mid-match snack, a delivery service or a payments app. Forget television and think of ‘lower funnel’ digital ways to hijack and disrupt.
  • The trick can even be an audacious media punt. Be it digital, OTT or even on television. A clever marginal sponsorship can also work wonders. Though such opportunities are now few and far and are snapped before. One can even say ‘Kevin Pietersen’.
  • Sometimes it’s better to fish in calmer waters. All the IPL mania leaves some of the other sports like hockey, football, marathons and badminton open to opportunities. When the cats are away the mice can play.

But in conclusion, IPL is an attitude. Of competition, of takes of heroism, good vs evil and the small taking on the big. It’s about tears and mega celebrations. And if your brand really believes in the spirit of sporting, there is no way anyone can knee you out of it. Because spirit and attitude are free for everyone.

A very happy IPL to everyone. May the best idea win.

The article is authored by Anil Nair, a digital-first strategist and entrepreneur.

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Source: Social Samosa

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