IPL season is here once again. From the day of its inception on 18 April 2008 to this date, the IPL has transformed itself from a simple cricket competition to a pan Indian national aspiration of sorts. Already counted in the world’s top five sports leagues IPL, within a decade of its existence, has initiated comparison with the world’s leading competitions like the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and English Premier League (EPL).
While the value of these leagues is still more than IPL – EPL rights sell for a whopping $4 billion dollars a year whereas IPL sold for $500 million a year in September 2017, to think that EPL is a century old property while IPL is just in its 11th year makes this comparison relevant.
The key thing about IPL, much like NBA and EPL, is that it is not only about the players. While playing in IPL is one of the most lucrative career options in India today, it is also the most sought after broadcast property and prime time soap for families across the country to watch and consume.
While EPL has a well developed global audience and makes serious monies from its overseas reach, IPL is considered wholesome entertainment at reasonable price in India. The central question then is what has helped make IPL a premier global sports property in a decade of its existence?
First, in what is a heady mix of cricket and entertainment rolled out for the fans, cricket, still, has the final say in IPL. For the many hundred domestic players who make an IPL team, it is their ultimate ambition which gets fulfilled year after year.
And here IPL may be a cut above even EPL. In November 2017, and not for the first time, concern was expressed if EPL was doing enough to promote English local talent. Clubs like Arsenal were fielding sides without a single English player, adding meat to the concern. IPL, however, is different. Even if you can’t play for India, you can play IPL.
It is the second biggest platform to international cricket and has enough star power to catapult a young cricketer to the forefront of the nation’s imagination. It is this ‘aspiration’ associated with the tournament that gives it an edge over everything else in world cricket at the moment.
For reasons good or bad, IPL has its penchant for headlines. Be it the sale of a particular player for Rs 14 crore or three players being hauled up for spot fixing and paraded on national television as fallen heroes, IPL has always had its brush with news and public attention.
Finally, cricket continues to sell in India. Brands know it is the safest investment option of all. It is no surprise that while there were empty seats at Wankhede and Eden Gardens during Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement series in November 2013, IPL games this week at the same grounds have been sold out weeks in advance.
Finally, it has to be said that the power of the brand resides in it being bigger than any individual. While there are questions if the Spanish La Liga will have the same draw without Leo Messi, Luis Suarez or Cristiano Ronaldo, it can be asserted that IPL will be the same without key Australian stars Steve Smith and Dave Warner, both sidelined in the wake of the ball tampering episode. Fans will still turn up to see Shane Warne mentor the Royals and Ajinkya Rahane captain them in their comeback year. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan will continue to draw fans to the Hyderabad stadium as will MS Dhoni in Chennai. #KhabarLive