Once again, cricket has caught my attention. This time in the form of a terrific piece by Preeti Chaturvedi. The piece appears on BrandChannel and talks about the Indian Premier League (wikipedia link, sorry the official site is down), the new professional Twenty20 Cricket League in India. With big name sponsors, athletes and money pouring in, there are certainly opportunities for brands, as Chaturvedi rightly points out.
I would caution however, that any brand jumping in should keep a couple of important issues in mind. First, the glut of sponsors rushing to fill this platform vacuum could leave consumers confused. Is Brand X a sponsor of the League, a team or a player? If Brand Y sponsors an opposing team, should I not buy it? What if one of my favorite players switches teams, should I still buy the product he endorses? Any brand getting involved is going to have to carefully think about its strategy and decide how they are going to differentiate themselves from other sponsors, and how they are going to engage consumers in a meanigful way. I can’t imagine that simply putting your logo on the sleeve of the jersey or on the perimeter signage around the pitch will be enough.
Secondly, before making the decision of how to activate the sponsorship, or even whether or not to get involved at all, a brand should be careful to choose their partner wisely. Are the League and the teams going to be managed and operated in a manner that aligns with your brand? Will League or team marketing have a different tone or voice than your brand? Their is no sense sponsoring the Mumbai club if they are going to be a “bhangra” team and you are a “bhavageete” brand.
I think the IPL can and will be very successful, but any fledgling endeavor is due some rough patches. Brands must go in with their eyes open and make sure they work with the team or League as a partner. Sports sponsorship is more than just writing a check and sitting in a luxury suite. You have to roll up your sleeves and often demand that the team/League/player work with you. Push them to meet your needs because, don’t forget, they have a different agenda than you.