IPL Promotion Strategies

With the 2024 season of the IPL behind us with record viewerships, it’s undeniable that India has once again laid claim to the most enthusiastic cricket fans anywhere in the world because it’s transcended from being just a sport to a way of life.

Fans at IPL 2023 | Sportskeeda

From Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid to MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, Indian cricket players have not only made a mark on their home turf but have gone on to become global sporting legends. In 2007 when the first T20 World Cup was hosted in South Africa, India became the inaugural champions and in 2008 it would start a cricketing revolution popularly known as the IPL (Indian Premier League).

Today the IPL is the most popular cricket league in the world with half a billion viewers watching the tournament in 2023. The first 10 matches of the 2024 IPL alone were seen by 350 million viewers, strengthening the influence the league has on die-hard cricket fans.

Even though the IPL matches take place over 2 months, the craze isn’t limited to just 60 days—and it’s all thanks to the IPL promotion strategies each team uses to keep their fans coming back for more. But first, let’s take a quick look at how the shortest format of the game became a cultural revolution.

From traditional to modern marketing approaches

As the most successful franchise league in cricket, the IPL has come a long way—all thanks to its evolving marketing strategies. These tools aren’t just used by the IPL as a whole but by the teams that make up the league.

When the IPL was first established in 2008, the league’s concept followed the same format as that of the NBA and the English Premier League. They kicked things off with traditional and modern approaches to promote the game. It covered everything from digital platforms, social media, and broadcasting to ticket sales and community relations.

While the tournament picked up steam in a country that treats the sport like a religion, the IPL banked on big corporations using it as an opportunity to expand their networks and grow their customer base. Of course, we’ll get to this in more detail but first…

How did the IPL begin?

The IPL operates on a franchise model based on the American style of hiring players. The IPL franchises were auctioned to prominent Indian figures who participated in an auction where the highest bidder won the rights to own the team, representing a major city.

With a total base price of USD 400 million, the auction took place on 24 January 2008. With Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla and business magnates like Vijay Mallya of United Breweries and Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries Limited participating, the auction secured USD 723.59 million in total.

2008 IPL auction with team owners | India Today

Since then, IPL’s popularity has been on the up and up. In 2022, Viacom18 backed by Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, secured the streaming rights until 2027 for $3.05 billion and Disney-owned Star India retained the TV contract for the same amount, making up a deal worth more than USD 6 billion! In comparison, Disney’s ESPN/ABC and Warner Bros Discovery’s TNT pay USD 2.6 billion each year to broadcast the current season which ends in 2024. While the IPL isn’t quite at the level of the NBA, it clearly shows that it can go toe-to-toe with some of the top leagues in the world. 

How the IPL promotion strategies have shaped the short format of the game

If you think back to 2008 and the first few seasons of the IPL, they used several marketing strategies to popularise the franchise, not just among Indian cricket fans but cricket fans around the world.

They focused on straightforward content marketing where IPL franchise owner and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan published a blog to bring in online traffic. But the IPL didn’t stop there. Remember the international cheerleaders who’d dance up a storm whenever their team hit a boundary or got a wicket? If you think about American football or the NBA, they use the same type of strategy to make it a more exciting experience for the fans.

Mumbai Indians IPL cheerleaders | CricTracker

When the league was still in its infancy, it relied heavily on TV, radio, print, and outdoor advertisements like ‘Cricket ka Karmayudh’ to create more hype and secure a loyal fan base.

They even secured sponsorships from some of the top brands in the world including Nokia, Tag Heuer, and The Telegraph. The organisers created unmatched fan experiences in India with a live concert at the opening ceremony much like the Olympics.

All this made sure that the IPL single-handedly drove the Indian sports industry for years and it’s all reflected in the numbers. The revenue the league brings in from endorsements, sponsorships, and advertising amounted to USD 24 million in 2008. In 2023, this figure has skyrocketed to USD 157 million.

The brand has even seen a 433% increase in its brand valuation since its first season in 2008, with the league now worth USD 10.7 billion. While the growth has been nothing short of impressive, the IPL is nothing without its devoted fans and with each IPL team having a rabid fanbase, it’s difficult to ignore the IPL promotion strategies that each team uses to keep fans loyal—especially in the ‘off-season’ when the IPL isn’t hosting league matches.

Dissecting the IPL promotion strategies used by some of the teams

Forget those old-school billboards with your favourite world-famous cricketer asking you to support their team. In 2024, cricket has changed and so have the IPL promotion strategies they use.

Chennai Super Kings: Celebrating Tamil pride

Chennai Super Kings—or CSK—understands how powerful it can be to make a connection at a regional level. Often referred to as the ‘Gateway of South India’, Chennai speaks Tamil as its mother tongue and CSK didn’t shy away from this.

CSK players celebrating Tamil New Year’s Day | LatestLY

They focused heavily on Tamil-language content, partnered with local micro-influencers, and collaborated with Chennai-based comedians to come up with a viral meme series.

This is a hyper-localised strategy which has become successful in helping CSK build their social media engagement and gain the unbridled support of Tamil Nadu residents. It also doesn’t hurt that MS Dhoni—widely considered to be among the greatest captains in cricket and is perhaps the most well-known cricketer for CSK—has become somewhat of a legend in the franchise team with fans sometimes referring to him as the ‘King of the Chennai Super Kings.’ These connections also make it a team that Tamil Nadu fans can get behind.

Mumbai Indians: Building virtual playgrounds

Mumbai Indians aren’t shying away from the latest tech and how fans want to be entertained in today’s world. They aren’t interested in just playing the game, they want to build a virtual playground. The team started this in 2020 when they launched virtual fan engagement innovations to give fans a wholesome experience when they visit the home ground, Wankhede Stadium.

Since then, they’ve even launched immersive metaverse experiences where fans can create custom avatars to explore the MI stadium virtually and interact with their favourite players.

MI Live was another concept they created to invite fans to be a part of a pre-, mid- and post-match show that’s interactive and light-hearted. They even introduced MI Buddy, which is an AI-powered interactive WhatsApp bot which delivers Mumbai Indians-related content for fans directly to their mobile phones.

MI Buddy WhatsApp | SportsMint Media

Needless to say, these tech-led initiatives are approaching MI fans in a whole new way and are making the sport and the team more appealing to young cricket fans.

Rajasthan Royals: Stepping into VR

Don’t underestimate the power of the eSports industry—and that’s exactly what Rajasthan Royals did when they partnered with iB Cricket to host a virtual reality cricket tournament across Jaipur.

Titled, ‘iB Cricket Fan Tour’, fans got the chance to go head-to-head with their favourite superstars from the Rajasthan Royals team in a virtual cricket game. They didn’t just get to try their batting and bowling skills against top players; they also got a taste of what it’s like to play in a world-class stadium in front of an electrifying crowd.

With many fans expressing their love for the sport but not having the opportunity to play at the highest level, this was a chance for them to put up some great scores and have their moment under the spotlight.

Fans playing cricket in VR with Rajasthan Royals | iB Cricket

Kolkata Knight Riders: Giving exclusive BTS access

As the champions of the latest IPL tournament, the Kolkata Knight Riders—or KKR—have become one of the most successful teams in the league.

Much like Formula 1’s ‘Drive to Survive’, the Kolkata Knight Riders gave fans unprecedented behind-the-scenes access. ‘KKR Unfiltered’ was a docuseries that took fans inside practice sessions, and gave access to player interviews, and other raw footage that wouldn’t otherwise see the light of day.

The docuseries went on to become a runaway success on their app and social channels. It gave an inside look at what fans don’t usually get to see and helped create emotional connections that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to build.

KKR Unfiltered | Kolkata Knight Riders

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Going viral

Humour. That’s what RCB decided to go for when they assembled a team of meme-makers to generate hilarious and match-specific content that just spread through social media like wildfire. 

With everyone wanting to see and share a good meme on their social media platforms, this shareable content continues to keep RCB on top of everyone’s minds—even when they’re not playing the gentlemen’s game.

Indian Premier League—capitalising on your unique marketing advantage

When you think of the IPL promotion strategies we generally think about the efforts of the Indian Premier League and what they do as a collective to drive the league forward and go from strength to strength. While the numbers clearly show that their efforts have been paying off, it’s important to remember that the teams that make it happen have their fan bases with each having different values than the next.

That’s perhaps an important lesson for businesses to take away. If you’re a multi-billion dollar conglomerate or an entrepreneur opening a second or third business in a different location, you need to know your audience. You may be operating under the same brand, but that doesn’t mean you’re chasing after the same audience.

Your marketing strategy needs to make a connection with your audience much in the same way the IPL promotion strategies have unfolded. Targeting consumers with the same basic interest may be easy enough, but what can you do to make their experience more connected to your brand?


How important is content marketing in digital promotional strategies?

Content marketing is extremely important in digital promotional strategies because it helps build trust and authority by providing valuable information that establishes the brand as a thought leader in the industry. 

High-quality content improves SEO, enhancing search engine rankings and making it easier for potential customers to discover the brand. Engaging content keeps the audience interested and encourages them to share it with others, expanding reach organically.

What are some common mistakes to avoid in digital marketing promotions?

In digital marketing promotions, common mistakes to avoid include ignoring mobile users, as failing to optimise websites and content for mobile devices can lead to poor user experiences and lost opportunities. 

The lack of clear goals is another pitfall. Inconsistent branding across different platforms can confuse the audience and dilute the brand message. Overlooking analytics is a critical mistake, as tracking and analysing campaign performance is essential for making data-driven decisions.

What role does social media play in digital marketing promotions?

Social media plays a crucial role in digital marketing promotions by building brand awareness and increasing visibility among a large audience. It enables businesses to engage with customers directly through comments, messages, and interactive posts, fostering relationships and trust. Social media platforms are also effective for driving traffic to websites or landing pages via posts and targeted ads. Advanced targeting options on these platforms allow marketers to reach specific demographics, interests, and behaviours, ensuring more effective campaigns.