In India, cricket and films are nothing less than religion of sorts. Not surprisingly then, cricketers and Bollywood stars have always ruled the roost vis-à-vis ad circuit. Even this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) has witnessed a big spike in celebrity endorsements as compared to the last edition. According to TAM Sports-IPL 13 Advertising Report, the total number of celebs seen in ad films during the ongoing sporting extravaganza, as compared to the 2019 edition, went up by 92% for the first four live matches.
The findings of the report, though, is a bit surprising for many, considering the Covid-19 induced financial crunch was expected to slow down brands’ pursuit of celebrities. “During the lockdown, celebs were sitting idle, so their agencies could have pushed them more aggressively to clients. Also, when you have a star / cricketer, you can shoot an ad film without many variables or other frills, which can be easy to work around with, during the pandemic,” says ad filmmaker and Bollywood director, Vinil Mathew.
As per the report, the count of celeb-led endorsements during IPL 2020 is 48 as compared to total of 25 starry endorsements last year. Industry insiders credit the rise of celebrity endorsements to the fact that IPL is “the first and only big-ticket sporting event, especially cricket after the total shutdown of over six months.” “Plus, since a lot of companies, that are currently advertising during the IPL, happen to be new, they can attract a lot of eyeballs with celebs,” says ad guru Prahlad Kakkar, adding that relying only on a celeb “is a clear sign of laziness.”
Kakkar explains: “But it’s (celeb-led campaigns) something that doesn’t work all the time. The reason being: if you rope in a celeb and don’t justify their presence through great creatives, then the celeb becomes the star of the campaign, instead of your product. You need to back a celebrity with some really smart writing. You can’t just rope in a star and make him/her stand in front of the camera.”
It’s interesting to note that IPL 2020 has witnessed 18 sports celebrities in ad films during the first four matches. In comparison, last year, only four sports stars were seen during the same duration. The data suggests that the total count of sports celebs doing endorsements during this year’s extravaganza grew 4.5 times over last year’s edition.
“During the pandemic, actors haven’t been seen in films. So, there has hardly been any traction vis-a-vis them. Plus, since it’s a sports event, the thinking could be that athletes will connect better with people,” says Mathew, adding that “due to the bad press that actors have been getting of late (due to the drugs scandal), many brands may be staying away [from actors].”
But Kakkar refuses to “look too much into it.” “If a sporting event is going on, it goes without saying that ad campaigns will be dominated by sports persons. There’s no rocket science in it. Some brands may be a bit wary of film stars right now, thanks to the media trial in the drug scandal,” he says, adding that “public memory is short.” “Six months down the line, everything will be forgotten. So, it’s not as if movie celebs have lost their sheen permanently,” he says.
It’s all in the names!
According to the report, Chennai Super Kings captain, MS Dhoni and Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper, Virat Kohli have been at the top of sports celebrities’ lists of 2019 as well as 2020 editions of IPL. This year’s list also has names such as Rishabh Pant, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. Besides, Dhoni, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan feature in the ‘overall celebrities’ lists of last year as well as the 2020 edition of IPL. Akshay Kumar and Alia Bhatt are also a part of the same list.