Sunday, April 18, 2010

IPL takes the everyone by storm

I know the title above sounds like a cliché :) Not that I couldn't find something which would sound better and attractive to the audience, but I wanted to put this to bring a point into perspective. T20 cricket was conceptualized just a few years ago by someone who has long been forgotten and never knew that it would generate the moolah like it is now, otherwise he would have put a royalty fee to his idea :) He just tried it out to bring some loyal supporters back to the English county cricket and make it enjoyable for the teams as well as the audience.

Look at it now, it indeed has taken the world by storm, just look around and we see everything which is suited to this shortest version of the game. We have T20 leagues all around the world. Cricket boards have risen to the fact that to keep themselves going and maintaining the spectator interest they have to adopt this newest child and pamper it to the hilt. Even corporates and celebrities have put in some huge amounts and we can see them all having fun at the grounds – showing their famous dimples, smiles, dance moves, and then the latest one – tweeting to “connect with their fans”. The players are also having some good time – get to earn astronomical amounts of money which was never heard of in cricket, learn, compete with the best in the business and if they are lucky, as some of them have been, get hugs and kisses from their famous and beautiful owners :)
Before we lay threadbare some of the other interesting facts about IPL, lets understand the business model that this competition adopts and see its merits and demerits. All in all, the major inflow of money to the league comes from the following
> Media Rights
> Central Pool – includes title sponsorship and licensed merchandise
> Money raised by the franchises – in stadia advertisement, licensing products, merchandising, advertisements 
 
   on tickets, and gate receipts
> Franchise bid money
Out of this money that comes into the IPL, all but franchise bid money is shared across the BCCI and franchises and if franchises wish, between the players as well.


Apart from everything that is money in IPL, what are the other benefits that have risen out of IPL. For the players, it is a world level platform, where they are earning much more during this 40-50 day period than they would otherwise for the rest of the year (For some, I might sound over optimistic here :)). They get to share dressing rooms with the best in the world and get to feel how it is playing at the international arena under the glare of the lenses and where every smart catch and pathetic running between the wickets is being watched and liked and ridiculed globally. Imagine how it would feel for someone like Saurabh Tiwary to play alongside Sachin Tendulkar and learn some tricks of the trade. Would someone like Yusuf Pathan had ever dreamt of playing and being coached by Shane Warne and being pampered by him, like he is? And see the transformation, over the last few years, since IPL1, Yusuf has become a regular member of the Indian T20 and ODI squad and bowlers world over dread him for his batting histrionics. Since then, every captain, wants to see the back of Yusuf as soon as he comes out to bat. Experts say that since IPL1, he has improved a lot in his batting and bowling both. Some of the players, like Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan should thank IPL very much that this gave them a platform to showcase their talent and earn an Indian blue jersey.

Earlier, the Indian domestic teams for the Ranji trophy and the likes except the zonal teams only had players from their respective states, with only a few exceptions here and there. This somehow, seemed like a regional bias. But with the advent of IPL, we see players from North Indian states playing for the team from the land of “Marathi Manoos”. Thanks to the clout that the BCCI enjoys, that those regular chants from the “manoos” have been allowed. Who knows, may be some mouthpiece would condemn the Ambanis to employ the services of a North Indian Harbhajan Singh for the team from Mumbai.

The corporates and celebrities who have invested some huge amounts of money into buying their respective franchises also seem to give thumbs up to this carnival of cricket. Mind you, these are some of the best business minds of the country and some of the best known faces in the Indian social circuit that they wouldn't have missed a point before investing millions into them. According to some estimates, over the 3 years of its inception, IPL has grown to be a brand worth more than $4 billion and continues to grow and bring more into its ambit. Critics, say millions invested into buying the franchises and then buying cricketers is not a sane business idea and may take years for them to come out of the red. But, I ask them a simple question, unless, a sound business idea was shown to the prospective bidders for the franchises, why would some sane person or a large business house put in such monies for which they might be accountable to the public too. Also, the business model discussed above seems pretty okay for most of the franchises to turn profitable in a year or two of their inception. Having said that, understand all from how things stand now, after 3 years into the IPL mania. 2 new franchises were bought together for an amount more than what was spent for 8 of the old ones 3 years back. 10 second advertisement spots for the IPL3 league matches were sold for Rs 4.5 lakh, which is 200% more than the price for similar ad spot during IPL1 in 2008 and this rose to Rs. 5.25 lakh as the league progressed. For the semi finals and final, these rates are expected to shoot to more than Rs. 6.5 lakh per 10 second spot. For all this, Sony Max is expected to rein in Rs 700 crore during IPL3 this year. All product launches, special cricket based advertisements and events have all aligned themselves to the IPL window. All this is generating money and much moolah as expected.

When the players and the business houses are enjoying their association with IPL, how can the most important stakeholder – the quintessential cricket fan be left behind? And people – we are right up there, sharing the stands with the likes to those celebrities and enjoying to the core. Most of the venues running to packed houses is a testimony in itself that we are all involved and sharing our moments in the sun. The concept was new to us – city teams, clubs and the format – all enchanted us and with the fact that it was cricket – the national pastime and passion, we all got into the thick of the things quickly and with vigour. It has given us enough to spend our after-office hours with our friends and loved ones together and enjoy a few hours, being treated to that barrage of fours and sixes, scoops and free hits.

The BCCI, the parent body and owners of the IPL are the ones who are smiling the most. And why wouldn't they not, they are earning the most of the money that is being generated from the league. They keep a share from everything that is money from the league, be it media rights, gate receipts, merchandise deals and sponsorships.  IPL has led BCCI to get another point to wrestle themselves with the other cash stripped cricket boards of the world and the ICC. Even though, it is not wise to have such a clout rest with just one board, but as they say, who cares, until it doesn’t affect anyone? And whoah!! As I write this one...it has started to affect a few people and everyone is now terming IPL as a saga of Power, Mystery and Deceit!

PS: We shall discuss a few more aspects in the following articles.
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