Chinese brands look to encash on tournament as IPL retains all sponsors

Brands experts say that it is important for Chinese firms to make their presence felt on IPL, if they wish to gain share
The decision of the Governing Council of the India Premier League (IPL) to retain all its sponsors including Vivo has attracted widespread criticism. But, it is unlikely to dampen the mood among Chinese companies, media industry sources have told Business Standard.

On Monday, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch came out strongly against the decision to retain title sponsor Vivo among other Chinese partners for the tournament, which begins on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Media planners, who invest advertising money on behalf of companies, say that Vivo and other Chinese brands such as Oppo, Realme, OnePlus and Xioami are preparing their media plans for the tournament, since it is only a month-and-a-half away in terms of launch.

A mail sent to Vivo remained unanswered till the time of going to press. Executives at Oppo, Realme, OnePlus and Xioami said they had no comments to share on the matter.

But media planners in the know say these companies will use platforms such as digital and television to reach out to their target audiences during the T20 tournament, since the IPL is the only high-impact sports property from an Indian perspective that is happening this year. It also falls in the festive season, which is a crucial period for most handset brands.

The share of Chinese brands in India’s smartphone market fell to 72 per cent in the April-June period versus 81 per cent in the first three months of the year, market researcher Counterpoint Research said last week, as most brands faced a supply crunch due to the lockdown as well as rising sentiment against Chinese goods.

Imports by Chinese firms were blocked at ports following the stand-off between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Ladakh in June, hitting production and sales.

Brands experts say that it is important for Chinese firms to make their presence felt on IPL, if they wish to gain share.

"The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) and the IPL Governing Council have maintained status-quo by opting to retain the sponsors for the tournament this year. I see this as a plus point for the Chinese brands, who will seize the opportunity to get maximum mileage," Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer, Harish Bijoor Consults, said.

Vivo forks out an annual amount of Rs 440 crore towards its five-year title sponsorship. The contract ends in 2022. Dream11 and Paytm, backed by Chinese investors, are official partners of the tournament. While brands such as Xioami, OnePlus, Swiggy, Realme, Byju's and Oppo advertise heavily on the property. Plus, some names such as Byju's are associated with franchisees such as Kolkata Knight Riders as well.

Though speculation has been mounting that celebrity endorsers for brands such as Vivo will not feature in their advertising around the IPL, Bijoor says this is a means to prevent the high-profile names from facing flak on social media. Actors Aamir Khan and Sara Ali Khan endorse Vivo.

"Vivo has not withdrawn from India. So why should it not advertise? It will use every window possible to market its products, despite the protests," says Ambi Parameswaran, founder, brand-building.com.

CAIT's secretary general Praveen Khandelwal said the body had written to Home Minister Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar saying that approval to BCCI should not be given to hold the IPL in the UAE, in protest against its decision to retain Vivo.

The last clearly hasn't been said on this matter. 


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