April has come to be known the season of IPL since the last few years. Come April and a lot of what you hear and see around you relates to IPL, especially if you are sitting home idle like I am nowadays. IPL normally invokes very strong emotions in the Indian public. While most enjoy it mainly for the package that it offers, the purists criticize it for doing more bad than good to the game. I too prefer Tests over all other forms and fall more in the latter category. But this doesn’t keep me from watching IPL. My reason : “Want to watch domestic players like Bhatia, Badrinath, Rayudu and the likes succeed”. My grandfather wants to see Sachin and Dravid play which means at least 30 matches watched live. While the above reasons might seem more like excuses, I believe there are stronger reasons for the IPL to remain relevant and sustain consumer interest.
1. High quality T20 cricket: IPL brings together the best T20 talent from across the world and makes sure each one gives his best. Infact players themselves consider IPL high priority – Sunil narine made himself unavailable for the Aus tests to play the IPL, Steyn bowls @ 150, Gambhir is terribly upset if he runs one run less,Ashwin dives more than he does in an international game and Bollinger hopes selectors notice his performance. The Indian domestic player sees IPL, which requires at least 63 playing Indians, as a great avenue to fulfill unrealized dreams. With the kind of energy, enthusiasm that one gets to see from all the players, nobody can deny that the cricket on display is of high quality.
2. Tried and tested model: While there are differences between the two, IPL remains a concept derived from the EPL, the highly successful franchise-driven football league of England. That EPL remains popular after 20 years is reason to believe IPL can achieve the same.
3. Games within the game: While off the field, it is a battle between the franchise, on it, it is a game of wits, talent and determination between the players. Zaheer wants to trick Sehwag into edging his outswinger, Morkel to take Kallis out with a pacy yorker, Dravid wants to prove he always belonged to the shorter versions of the game and Ganguly wants to redeem himself after KKR ditched him.
4. Good business proposition: How would you rate a start-up that generates a profit in the very first year of operation? Very highly, right? (Even FlipKart took a few years to turn profitable)Kolkata Knight Riders achieved exactly that. All franchise are expected be profitable this year onwards. When cement giants, liquor barons and oil conglomerates from across India and abroad invest huge sums of money in a business model, the underlying business must be lucrative. And if it stops being lucrative, the franchise will start being innovative – news is that Shahrukh Khan became the brand ambassador of West Bengal without charging a penny and is now batting for an amusement tax sop which would lower IPL ticket prices and attract more crowds.
5. Big bucks at stake: Thousands playing super selector on espnstar.com, record visits to cricinfo.com, radio channels partnering teams, television rights for 10 years, restaurants and theatres screening IPL matches means there a lot of circumferential businesses making a lot of money who wouldn’t let the IPL fever die down easily. They, along with the franchise, have made IPL the great brand that it is today and will continue to keep it fresh in the consumers’ minds.
6. Cricketainment: IPL has managed to attract ladies and whole families , who otherwise stay away from cricket, thanks to the entertainment factor. That IPL is unleashed during the summer vacation means children take to it too. You see lesser movies released during the IPL, teams in IT companies going for project outings to stadiums, families flocking the stadiums and even couples cancelling their dinner dates.
So, even as doomsday pundits are eager to prophesy the death of IPL citing lower television ratings and less than full stadiums, IPL, both as a brand & business model, is here to stay.