Tata Sons, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Patanjali, Dream 11, Byju’s and Unacademy have expressed interest in bidding for the title sponsorship rights of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), scheduled to start on September 19 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said people with knowledge of the matter.
A Tata spokesperson confirmed the development but said that there was no mention of the sponsorship amount. “It’s just an initial display of interest. We have not specified the funds in the same,” the spokesperson said.
“The board has received interest from some of the biggest corporates like Tata Sons and Reliance Jio, as well as Dream 11, Patanjali and two large edtech companies. We always believed there is going to be a great interest in the IPL title sponsorship,” a senior BCCI official told ET. BCCI interim CEO Hemang Amin didn’t respond to queries.
A Jio executive said it had expressed interest. The telecom player is already heavily invested in the league as it sponsors all the eight franchises and spends a big amount on TV advertising during the IPL. Also, the Mumbai Indians team is owned by Reliance. The company did not respond to an email.
ET first reported on August 8 that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had reached out to corporate houses such as Tata, Reliance and Adani as well as companies like Amazon, Byju’s, Dream 11 and others to find a replacement for Vivo. Patanjali Ayurved had publicly shown interest in bidding for the rights.
Experts See Fewer Final Bids
BCCI, which organises the IPL, called for expressions of interest (EoI) for the rights on August 10 with August 14 as the deadline for submissions. Bidding is set for August 18.
This follows the exit of Vivo as title sponsor because of anti-Chinese sentiment in the wake of border hostilities.
Sports marketing experts said the Tata Group might want to invest in the IPL this year as its medical arm, Tata Medical and Diagnostics, is also looking at partnering with the BCCI to provide the bio-bubble for players and officials to ensure their protection from Covid-19.
Dream 11, Unacademy and Patanjali Ayurved didn’t respond to queries. A Byju’s executive declined to comment.
To be sure, those that have submitted EoIs may not necessarily bid for the title rights. Experts said they expect fewer final bids as in 2017.
“Usually, multiple players pick up tender documents, but when it comes to actual bidding, we have seen in the past that only a few of them do. Vivo and Oppo were the only two players that bid for IPL title rights in 2017,” said a BCCI official.
Vivo had acquired the IPL title rights for a five-year period until 2022. Under the deal, Vivo had agreed to pay the board Rs 2,190 crore, or about Rs 440 crore per season. However, a day after it was decided that IPL 2020 will be played in the UAE on account of Covid-19, the BCCI was criticised for allowing a Chinese company to be the title sponsor of the league in the aftermath of the dispute between the two nations along the border.
Amid calls in India to boycott Chinese products, Vivo and the BCCI mutually agreed to suspend the deal for IPL 2020, with a clause to resume it next season. That forced the BCCI to reach out to top companies seeking their interest, even offering the deal at a 50% discount, according to people aware of the matter.
Market experts believe that fair value for the title rights of the 2020 edition is not more than ₹150-170 crore as the rights holder may not be able to exploit the partnership to the extent it would like to because of Covid-related restrictions.
A top executive at a sports marketing firm pointed out a clause in the EoI document that suggests the highest bidder may not necessarily be the winner.
The board has stipulated that bidder should have posted a minimum turnover of ₹300 crore in the last financial year and that it “would not be obliged” to award the rights to the highest bidder.
“The BCCI has already said that the decision to select a title sponsor will depend on many factors, including on how the sponsor intends to exploit the rights, and sponsors’ potential impact on the IPL brand. That allows the board to select or deselect unwanted bids,” he added.