Another dose of ‘wholesome entertainment experience’ with loads of fun, fanfare, dance, music, celebrities and of course, Cricket comes to an end. The season 3 of the Indian Premier League (IPL) had its share of sporting action, larger-than-life celebrity supporters, franchises, owners, and add to these, the controversies to top them all. Along with all these, it also gave a lot of sleepless nights to the people who matter. I too had my share of late night sleeps, of course, for a different reason. I used to wake up till 11.45 pm all these days to watch the matches.
I will leave the analysis of the cricketing sport and spirit to the cricket pundits and sportsmen and the controversies et al to the media. That spares me enough material to focus on the ‘experience’ aspect of the IPL. In a nutshell, I think IPL experience = function of (business, fun, films, dance and music, politics, cricket), though need not be in that specific order.
It is not about cricket
I am sure this thought would have crossed your mind when you were watching the matches, reading news or watching the Television. Yes, it is true that IPL is about Cricket, it involves Cricket players who play Cricket on the cricket grounds and organised by Cricket authorities. The association of the tournament with Cricket ends there. Whoever named the tournament, IPL had made sure this argument is true. There is no mention of Cricket anywhere in the word IPL or the expansion of the term. It has caught on the lives of Indians and perhaps a lot of other cricket enthusiasts in the World. The fact that IPL 3 matches were broadcast ‘live’ on YouTube (well, not exactly ‘live’, there was a lag of about 10 minutes), mobile phones and in Cinema Theatres in India, proves that there had been a huge following and it virtually became a life-line for some people. So, let us look at what makes up IPL, if it is not just about cricket.
Though there could be many things that could have contributed to the huge success of IPL 3, I attribute the following as some of the major factors to make it a hit:
- Emotional card – IPL is back in India after almost 2 years (season 2 was played out of home, in South Africa in 2009)
- Complete and active participation of all Indian cricketers – including retired players (there is no ‘for’ or ‘against’ camps – all players took part in this tourney)
- Strong industry support for the event – business houses and marketing agencies, large and small took part (include the franchises)
- Optimal coverage and updates by electronic and print media – Television channels, Web sites and Newspapers & magazines
- Good weather for playing cricket – No match was cancelled due to rain or poor visibility
- Perfect timing of the match plays – 4 pm and 8 pm (after office/school hours, when it gets maximum viewership)
Marketers’ gold rush
I assume that the event would have been watched by 40% of the people in India, that still makes a good 40 million minds to occupy the space in, for the businesses. With so many eyeballs glued to the television and newspapers and ears keyed in on AM and FM Radios, I am sure no business would want to miss this bus. Rightly so, the huge opportunity was lapped up by companies big and small, old and new alike… companies selling mobile phones or motor cycles, liquor or lemon drinks, FMCG or white goods, all cashed in on the IPL wave to reach out to their target markets.
Forget the sponsors and partners, even businesses which had no direct relationship started riding on the IPL wave. I remember seeing the buzz created by a white goods selling store, offering a hefty discount on the goods purchased that day, if Mumbai Indians team won the match played on the following day.
What’s in it for us – the experience!
Americans love Basketball and American Football and they have NBA and NPL. Europeans love Soccer and Formula One and they have Euro Cup and F1 races. Indians love Cricket and IPL was born to satiate their passion! In the absence of any major regular sporting tournament in India, IPL turned out to be the ambrosia in the cricket-crazy nation. Besides this, the IPL offered a plethora of experiential factors that made it a hugely successful phenomenon in the sub-continent. All of the factors mentioned below are inter-connected and have a bearing on one another.
Bonding with family and friends. I have seen parents, couples and children all in front of the Tellies and cheering for their teams. This is not just restricted to personal lives, but IPL touched work lives too. I had seen Organisations holding contests and sending the winning teams to watch the games. Also, project teams and people working in the same department get together to plan and watch the match. All these help develop bonding amongst the people.
Diversity in Unity. Though there is a bit of cultural misfit with the non-local cheer-leaders, I think some of the matches had a good dose of display of Indian traditions and culture. You could watch some spectators wearing local traditional attire playing the local musical instruments or performing regional flavours of dance.
Belongingness. There had been a sense of belongingness which the people had towards the teams and this was sufficiently leveraged by the marketers. The merchandise of the teams such as jerseys, sporting gear, accessories et al were sold like hot cakes. Need a proof for this? I too bought a Mumbai Indians jersey on the day of the final match between Mumbai and Chennai. Of course, I don’t want to share with you how I felt at the end of the match, when Mumbai Indians lost to Chennai Super Kings.
Love for Regional / local flavours. Thanks to the formation of teams, based on the different regions or states, there has been a sense of rekindling of love for one’s region or state. Often, this added to the lighter side of India’s diversity. For instance, I was born in Vijayawada, studied in Hyderabad and Puttaparthi, worked in Bangalore and Chennai and settled in Mumbai. These are all from four different states, where different languages are spoken and differ on the traditions and cuisines as well. This only made me confused if I should support my settled home Mumbai or my original home, Hyderabad in a match, where they played each other. My case is rather simple, I had a friend who has links to 8 different states and he thoroughly enjoyed each match in the IPL tournament.
Not so good things
Timing of the tournament was not just right for students. Many of the secondary and junior college students have their annual final and board examinations around March and April, every year. By keeping the IPL during this time, students could not but face the pressure but more so parents of these students too faced the problems.
Marketing was a bit overdone in a few cases. Every six hit by batsman in the match is a ‘DLF Maximum’ six, every catch a ‘Karbonn kamaal catch’, as announced by the commentators. They had done it to the extent that sometimes, it started annoying the viewers. For instance, the continual beaming and talking of the MRF blimp on air, is a real irritant, no matter how much important MRF is to the IPL organisers.
Anything in excess is dangerous and so with cricket too. The teams had too many matches to play against one another and the 45-day long tournament could have left the players tired and perhaps bored with too much cricket!