PodcastsSports Business Updates

SBU Ep34 : Everything you need to know about the WPL franchise bid process, BCCI’s sponsorship plan for the IPL and my prediction and eSports/gaming localisation case study

The nexus between Sports and Business.

My first update is about the WPL franchise bid. 

The interest level for owning a WPL franchise was very high with reports suggesting that around 25-30 leading Indian corporates have bought the bid documents.  The list of corporates vying for a franchise is very impressive as it included the likes of Adani group, Torrent group, Haldiram’s Prabhuji, Capri Global, Kotak, and Aditya Birla Group to name a few. The corporates that bid for a franchise also faced competition from most of the men’s IPL teams. For IPL teams like Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, and Delhi Capitals, KKR it made a lot of sense to buy a WPL franchise as it would be a great acquisition of their growing global footprint of building international teams.

The business media in India had reported that the BCCI is set to earn INR 4000 Crores from the sale of 5 teams for the inaugural WPL.

And as per the announcement by the BCCI today (25th January 2023), the 5 teams WPL franchise owners are:

Ahmedabad – Adani Group, Mumbai – Reliance Industries Limited (MI), Bangalore – Diageo (RCB), Lucknow – Capri Global and Delhi franchise will be co-owned by JSW Sports Pvt Ltd and GMR (who also co-own Delhi Capitals)

There were 15 bidders who submitted final bids and the BCCI received a total of INR 4670 Crores in bids with the highest bid estimated to be close to INR 1250 Crore and the second best in the range of INR 900 crore.  This is indeed great news for women’s sports in India and the rest of the world. 

My second update is about BCCI’s sponsorship plan as a few important sponsorship deals are coming to an end this year. 

It has been reported that the BCCI expects an INR 1500 Crore sponsorship boost after a slight turbulence of its partners dropping out in the past few years. In their current sponsorship cycle, the BCCI saw a surge of sponsorship interest from tech unicorns of India equipped with big marketing budgets. In the last year, most of the tech sponsors have either dropped off or been replaced by other corporates. To give you examples PayTM was BCCI’s title rights partner for seven years – they last paid ₹326 crores for 4 years – before dropping out of the contract and handing over rights to Mastercard. MPL recently transferred the kit sponsorship to Killer Jeans and BYJU’s has decided to end its sponsorship with the BCCI too.  Between kit, jersey sponsorship, and title rights for bilateral cricket – it is no longer the hot property it once was – the BCCI is looking at an annual revenue of at least ₹500 crores.

The question still remains about who can potentially replace the tech unicorns.

If you look at global trends in sports ownership and sponsorship it’s the sovereign funds that are associated with sports. Be it football or even WWE the sovereign funds are involved with ownership and sponsorships. 

Given cricket’s pan-India reach and appeal across gender and age groups, there’s always a lucrative option for sovereign funds to associate with Indian cricket. This is not something I am saying because of the popular trends in global sports but because a couple of Saudi Arabian sponsors have recently entered the IPL sponsorship.

Saudi Oil company Aramco came in as a central sponsor last year, to add their name to the Orange and Purple Cap segments and the Saudi tourism Authority came on board as one of the six official IPL partners after the exit of Unacademy.

Given their association with the IPL, I won’t be surprised to see incoming sponsorships from various Saudi Arabian brands.

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My third and final update is more of a case study in the emerging gaming and eSports sector of India. This is very interesting as the roadmap planned by the global eSports sector in India can be a useful blueprint for other sports entities trying to engage with fans and build their fan base in India.

The main emphasis is on the importance of localisation in the Indian market and what we can learn from the global esports sector.

Ever since the Indian government has given eSports a multi-sport category global players have activated their interest in the Indian market and the global players have realised the importance of the Indian market size and have started the process of localisation to suit the Indian market. 

And here’s how they are doing it:

1. Content-based localisation: Let me talk about Riot Games as an example. They introduced their first Indian character Agent Harbor, aka Varun Batra in their game Valorant. They launched the character with a big bang which included an outdoor campaign and unveiling of an 8,400 sq ft long mural art and over fifteen billboards spread across the country to celebrate the success of its first Indian agent. They also localised a map in the game. The location and the design of the map is been inspired by traditional Indian stepwells, rock-cut architecture, and Dravidian-style structures.

2. Local partnerships: The Indian gaming market is the second biggest market in the world and according to Lumikai Investment Advisors the Indian gaming market is projected to reach $8.6 billion financial year 2027. At 17%, the country had the highest share of game downloads globally in the last few years making local partnerships very important ways to gain a foothold in the country.

Riot Games tied up with gaming and esports companies and teams in India to launch their first Indian character. One of their prominent partnerships was with Team Orangutan which led to a nationwide amplification and a steady reach amongst eSports fans in India.

KRAFTON, Inc is another big-name publisher that has invested over $100 million in the Indian market across fields of interactive entertainment, gaming, Esports platforms, technology, and other community platforms. NODWIN, Loco, Partilipi, and KukuFM for ideas and content, and other companies such as Nautilus Mobile and LILA Games that are game developers are some of the local investments they have actively made.

3. M&A’s and funding: According to Lumikai’s report, gaming-based funding in India in 2022 was up 380% as compared to 2019 and up 23% against that in 2020 with Indian gaming companies raising a total of $2.8 billion in the last 5 years. Leading global funds such as Makers Fund, Tiger Global, Play Ventures, and Griffin Gaming Partners funds are actively investing in the Indian gaming business. Some of the beneficiaries in these fundings were Dream11, WinZo, Loco, Stellar Play, Games 24X7, MPL, All-Star Games, Stellar Play, and WinZo.

There was a huge M&A deal signed in India too. Sweden’s MTG acquired PlaySimple Games for $360 million is one such example.  

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Nilesh Deshmukh
I am passionate about sports and passionate about marketing. As a sports marketer, I have built significant expertise in successfully delivering medium to long term digital marketing strategy for global sports entities and brands like Arsenal FC, Manchester United FC, Chelsea FC, Major League Baseball, Formula E, and AELTC, etc to engage with their fans in India. I am currently based in London and lead India business at Engage Digital Partners.