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UAE’s ad industry lights up over IPL options

Hosting Indian cricket league’s first leg in the UAE has advertisers excited

Gulf News

Dubai: UAE’s ad sector is getting a bounce and it has the upcoming IPL (Indian Premier League) 2014 to thank for. As many as 20 matches of the India’s domestic Twenty20 tournament will be played at stadia in the UAE between April 16 to 30, and advertisers and agencies here are already pitching it up for maximum exposure.

Local newspapers are reaching doorsteps with IPL wraps on them, radio stations are blaring out IPL-related slogans seemingly every five minutes or so, TV channels are building up momentum well ahead of the opening match day, and even UAE’s outdoor media is in on the action. So are the many digital platforms that cricket enthusiasts are likely to surf.

“Popular sporting events are effectively used as platform to amplify brand awareness and engagement in a short span of time — the IPL without doubt is one of them,” said Mahesh Sundaresan, CEO of Ikon Advertising. “Apart from TV, we are working on a 360-degree plan specific to IPL. Clients are actively considering advertising during the period... so it does give a bounce to ad spend.”

Sure, the build-up has started for June’s football World Cup in Brazil with global fast-food chains McDonald’s and KFC already hitting the market here with localised campaigns. But the chance for local marketers to do more via the IPL was certainly unexpected.

The ongoing general election in India was the reason hosting IPL 2014 was split between the UAE and India, from May onwards. In past editions of the IPL, there were local ads and campaigns that used to run simultaneously; but with the UAE actually hosting a few matches, this year’s ad exposure could be a different ball-game altogether.

“There is an unprecedented interest in IPL by marketers targeting the Subcontinent audience due to three factors: it is the first time the IPL is launching in the UAE, so there is a huge “home flavour” to it,” said Amit Raj, general manager at BPG Maxus. “The second factor is the increase in real estate and other local organisations looking at the India market — IPL is a big-ticket event and many will want to ride the wave.

“A few have already signed big investments behind IPL this year and they are from banking, real estate and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) clients in male grooming products, etc.

“A third reason is that most Bollywood releases and popular TV shows are staggered because of the IPL and the Indian general election hype, leaving less choice for marketers to rely on seasonality.”

The pay-TV channel OSN holds the telecast rights for the UAE and elsewhere in the region. Bookings are already open and “due to UAE leg of the event there has been revived interest among consumers and marketers alike,” said Raj. “IPL on OSN is at a premium this year the rates are higher than before.”

But brands looking to the IPL window still need to follow some rules of engagement. “There is a minimum level of investment required to stay afloat and create an impact during IPL, one needs to justify the investment against objective,” Raj added. “But because of its entertainment factor, this format has female following as well making for a wider audience base.

“IPL is more of a [non-stop] festivity for 60 days.”

And for the UAE’s ad industry, it is an opportunity to hit the ball out of the park.