Undoubtedly cricket in India surpasses the viewing figures and investment of any sport. The Indian Premier League has had more investment from cricket mad business owners such as the Ambani’s and support from every Bollywood starlet. It is the closest sporting event to achieving a Cricket All Stars.
Despite the money ploughed into the opening ceremony and the main IPL website, marketing seems to have fallen down slightly when it comes to individual team websites and merchandising on a number of fronts. When compared to the slickness of the UK’s Premier League Football sites, for the managers of these teams web, availability of kit and other merchandising seems to have been a bit of an after thought.
Websites have slow loading times even when accessed outside of India, although having said this the social media feeds seem to have taken precedent. The big let down is the merchandise which seems to be only on sale via India based sites most of which do not ship abroad. With so many cricket mad NRIs across the globe, it seems a ‘missed’ opportunity not to target this audience and have kits, bats, balls all branded up and ready to ship before the IPL even starts. Royal Challenger Bangalore is one team where there is no availability of merchandise through its website, and after numerous searches by my partner, no availability at all outside of India, with online shops in the US and UK still waiting for a shipment from Nike. Undoubtedly when these items do arrive for sale outside of India the IPL will either be over or thy will be sold at inflated prices.
It seems a shame that more hasn’t been made of the merchandising opportunity. Delhi Daredevils at least have provided a provision of, kit, bats, balls and cricket related merchandise which kids and adults alike would want. Chennai Superkings have at least kept their e-commerce store within the bounds of their own website. The same can’t be said for other teams where importance has been placed of more gimmicky fan items of no real use or worse where e-commerce has been completely been ignored or links back to unreliable online stores. Of course this may not be a problem inside of India, where kits can probably quite easily be bought from sports shops or outlets, but I’d like to know the reasoning for not tapping into an international audience, when there are so a) so many international players involved and b) the international audience has a demand for these items.
There are many lessons that IPL has yet to learn, fantasy leagues, official interactive online gamification to provide an experience for fans as well as collect information, better user experience on websites and tapping into an international audience, which is there and ready to spend.
Whilst the IPL is still young, surely the level of competition between the teams should extend to their web presence and the decent offering of merchandise available in and outside India, catering to all fans and actually tapping into a ‘shopping basket’ market that could increase profitability and indeed brand awareness.
*Whilst these are my thoughts on what hasn’t quite worked with IPL this year, there are many other marketing schemes for IPL2012 that have. Celebrity support and endorsement has always been brilliant strategy, as has the grand opening ceremony and securing international TV channels to show the matches.*