#Retrace2021: The emergence of new advertiser categories in sports genre

Taking a look at how ed-tech, gaming & crypto brands dominated the sports genre on TV


Mumbai: As LIVE sports returned to Television in full swing in 2021, several new categories of advertisers also dived in to make the most of the opportunity to establish a connect with consumers. From e-pharma, gaming, cryptocurrency to several new-age brands flocked the TV space with a marketing blitz.

“There is a deep connection between sports and youth, and the latter is undoubtedly among the first adopters of technology. So, no wonder why a plethora of consumer tech brands are dominating the mass sports broadcasting airspace,” says Wunderman Thompson Delhi senior VP and managing partner Joy Chauhan. “For them, the biggest metric of success is how fast they can scale up their brand and operations. Big sporting brands and Bollywood celebrities are just what the media planning doctor ordered for them.”

Sample this: According to the latest Barc India report, out of the total 4,624 brands that advertised on TV in October, as many as 1,065 were new ones. While legacy brands such as the durables and automobile brands stayed strong, several new ones made splashes with significant increases in investment in the sports sponsorship space.

According to Pitch Madison Advertising report published in February early this year, ed-tech firm Byju’s spent Rs 400-500 crore in advertising in 2020 while gaming firm Dream11 spent Rs 350-400 crore and My11Circle spent Rs 150-250 crore. The trend continued this year as millions of people tuned into cricket, football, and other sports events throughout the year.

Despite the pandemic-led disruptions, the sports scene in 2021 saw some big impact properties reigniting the LIVE sports action on Television. From the 14th season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to ICC T20 World Cup, India-New Zealand series, Indian Super League (ISL), and the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) - all boosted the presence of new advertisers powering the revenue growth.

Online gaming, ed-tech, and crypto brands drive Ad-ex

The contribution of these companies to the overall adex has also been steadily growing each year with new categories such as online gaming and ed-tech driving the adex in 2021.

According to DDB Mudra Group country head and managing partner – Integrated Media Rammohan Sundaram, new-age consumer tech companies contribute nearly 50-55 per cent of the adex on sports. “Look at the number of brands and their frequency on TV – PayTM, Cred, Upstox, CoinDCX, Byjus, Unacademy, Upgrad, MPL and others have ensured the growth of TV advertising, sponsorship in sports and celebrity endorsements,” he explains. “This is visible not just on TV but also on digital due to the nature of the business of streaming sporting events on devices. My guess is that around Rs 4500-5000 crore come from new-age companies into sports marketing alone.”

Industry experts also highlight the advantages that an Indian consumer offers especially in terms of consumer loyalty and long-term affinity. With the youngest population in the world, where 65 per cent of the total 1.3 billion are below the age of 35, India is considered the largest market economy in the world.

Building Mass Reach

When such a denominator is at play, how does a consumer-tech company build its momentum? It does that by being omnipresent through reach and high frequency, through a medium that still continues to build new audiences outside of the urban population- and that medium is TV. Experts cite this as one of the prime reasons why big brands in e-commerce and other new categories continue to plough millions of dollars on television.

Going by the consumption patterns of this young audience, and a definite outcome that makes for a wholesome experience, the Sports genre delivers the highest GRPs (gross rating point measuring impact). Thus, making it worthwhile for these new-age companies to bet on so that the required adoption of their products happens in their desired target sets.

“At least 60 per cent of Unacademy’s advertising spends is allocated to TV to capture the growing internet populace and make them adopt their offerings early so that they can stay locked in for a longer period of time. Most of the loan-to-value (LTV) for such (EdTech) brands is strong because of the number of years these platforms can lock their consumers with high-quality educational content and experience through their product offerings,” says Sundaram. “So even if they have a very high customer acquisition cost, it really doesn’t matter much because eventually they not only recover but make a lot of profit from one customer, leading to an eventually profitable business simply because of the duration a customer stays attached with the brand.”

That may not hold true for eCommerce, or Crypto, however, which is a different ball game altogether. So, while there may be different consumer behaviours associated with these new-age brand categories, all of it makes media investments in Sports advertising, parking a sizable chunk of their annual ad budget, worthwhile given the sheer size of the addressable audience that is available for these new-age brands in such a large market economy.

According to dentsu India chief client officer Narayan Devanathan, brands in these categories are the ones which are flush with funds, and they are looking to generate awareness very quickly, backed by a lot of ad spends—and the properties with the most impact for this task are the sports-related ones. “The emergence of these advertisers is so visible is primarily because they have received a disproportionate share of attention and capital from VC firms in this time period. And they are now spending that capital to garner a disproportionate share of attention from their potential customers,” he opines.

Turning to Social Media for the boost

Even as Sports continues to attract eyeballs, the ‘new normal’ and digital advancements coupled with the social media expansion have brought new possibilities for brands to increase their visibility and improve their sponsorship message. And this time, with back-to-back IPL and T20 World Cup leagues aligned with the festive season, the brands went all out investing in the sport on TV and OTT platforms to be where their audiences are.

E-commerce brands were the biggest spenders during the first leg of IPL 2021 in April-May and an increase in the number of fantasy gaming apps were observed during the league, as per HI-CRICKET, a proprietary IP report by Havas Media Group India.

Digital stock brokerage Upstox recently beat online investment platform Groww to become the official partner of the Indian Premier League (IPL), joining startups such as fantasy sports platform Dream11, e-payments firm Cred and ed-tech startup Unacademy. The latter is also sponsoring the T20 tournament, apart from IPL, and currently working on Olympics and other branded content-led partnerships across different forms of sports, the company disclosed earlier.

Pro Kabbadi League, which returned after two years on 22 December has online pharmacy platform Netmeds.com and Dream11 as sponsors. Recently e-gaming platform WinZO which aims to build a community of gamers and gaming influencers in Tier 2 to tier 4 cities in India, also secured the principal sponsorships for two major Vivo Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) teams, Bengal Warriors and Gujarat Giants, as well as associate sponsorship for Patna Pirates. Meanwhile, the Indian Super League (ISL) has sponsors including Dream11 and Policybazaar.

With the year drawing to a close, let’s see how these new-age brands up their game in 2022!

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