IPL 2020: Indian fantasy sports platforms taking leap of hope to bounce back

With the return of the India Premier League cricket, after a gap of one and a half years, the fantasy sports operators have shifted gears and doubled down their their campaign, collaboration, promotion, strategy game to offset the downtime caused by the pandemic.

Indian fantasy gaming market is huge and the potential user-base of the fantasy sports platforms is comprised of a diverse age group, demography and gender. With cricket being synonymous with religion, fantasy cricket has cashed in on its utility and made its mark in the industry. As soon as the IPL 2020 scheduled dates were announced, many new platforms stepped in with new campaigns, ambassadors to draw from the rapidly flowing IPL stream. According to the All India Gaming Federation fantasy sports, business is expected to bounce back with millions of players all set to get to play on Fantasy Sports platforms.

According to Game-plan 2020, the number of online fantasy sports platforms in India has increased from less than 10 operators in 2016 to 140+ operators by the end of 2019 and is growing with the IPL 2020.

IPL 2020 partnership:

IPL was initially scheduled for 29 March 2020 but was suspended until 15 April due to the rising global pandemic. After Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on 14 April that the lockdown in India would last until at least till 3 May 2020, the BCCI suspended the tournament indefinitely. However, later the BCCI announced that the tournament would be taking place and it commenced from 19 September and set to continue till 10 November 2020, albeit in the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement meant a sigh of relief to the cricket fans and the fantasy sports industry as a whole. This year the title sponsorship rights of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020 to fantasy cricket league platform Dream11.

With this year’s title sponsor, Dream11 has made a three-year winning bid to bag the IPL title rights, and has outbid education-technology platforms Byju’s and Unacademy to win the race. This happened after the IPL 2020 title sponsorship fell vacant after Vivo, which had signed a 2000-crore-plus five-year deal (2018-2022) with BCCI, withdrew after the Boycott China campaign gathered steam in the wake of the India-China standoff at Galwan Valley in Ladakh in June. Not only that the fantasy sports platforms also shared sponsorships to the IPL teams participating.

Dream11 shared sponsors for team: Delhi Capital, Mumbai Indians, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals,Sunrisers Hyderabad. MPL shared sponsors for team: Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders

New fantasy sports platform joined:

Since the beginning of the year new fantasy sports, platforms started to step in. Starting of in February 2020, ShareChat’s fantasy sports app, called Jeet11, entered the industry and opened the gateways for players to try game of skill for cricket and football matches. Earlier they accumulated $100 million funds in a financing round led by Twitter. Soon after the pandemic came in and the temporary discontinuation of sporting leagues naturally had an adverse effect on the fantasy sports platforms as these skill-based gaming platforms run on a format that have a direct dependence on the real-time sport being played.

As lockdown started partially lifting and IPL dates became a precursor for a new fantasy sports platform that joined the ecosystem titled as Win Trade Fantasy Sports (WTFSports) with brand ambassadors Indian cricketer Suresh Raina and Harmanpreet Kaur.  

The new fantasy sports platforms also joined with the new line of brand ambassadors who are usually off the field but popular among the cricket fans. For example:- Fantasy Akhada launched and roped in Indian cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle as brand ambassador followed by Capital group’s Khelo Fantasy sports live platform launched recently with Extraaa Innings T20  host Sammir Kochhar as brand ambassador.

Campaigns and Partnerships:

As IPL 2020 resumed, it prompted the Indian fantasy platforms to cary out more promotions as the major chunk of the income and engagement that the platforms witness invariably draw from the IPL season. Here are some of them. After being the title sponsor, Dream11 released its promotional anthem named, ‘Yeh Apna Game Hai’. The video of the track features Indian cricketing icons MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya.

My11Circle recently released a new campaign featuring former Indian cricket captain and brand ambassador Sourav Ganguly. The ad films asks cricket enthusiasts to make their teams on the app to compete directly with Sourav Ganguly. My11Circle introduced the ‘Beat the Expert’ contest — the fantasy sports contest that allows a player to make a team and play directly with legendary cricketers. During this cricketing season, My11Circle plans to host a weekly tournament that will create a crorepati on the platform. Apart from this weekly crorepati tournament, the company also plans to reward the skills of the top and most consistent fantasy cricket player of this season on My11Circle with a prize money of Rs 2 crore.

Fantasy sports platform, MyTeam11  launched a new campaign named “India Ki Apni Fantasy App” around the 2020 season of the Indian Premiere League. It emphasises on taking pride in playing fantasy cricket game on a homegrown application, bringing the users closer to the experience of the actual matches of the league. The campaign was launched through videos wherein cricket experts can be seen recommending and creating their own teams in the MyTeam11 app. The campaign which will be running throughout the IPL 2020 season features MyTeam11’s brand ambassador Virender Sehwag along with newly signed campaign ambassador Danny Morrison.

Keeping the upcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in mind, Jio has designed two new plans under the Jio ‘Dhan Dhana Dhan’ offer – priced at Rs. 499 and Rs. 777. Both the plans give access to one-year complimentary Disney+ Hotstar VIP subscription, offering full streaming of all cricket matches set to be broadcast from September to November.

Mobile Premier League (MPL), has released its Rs 99 Ticket ad campaign ahead of the IPL, featuring renowned actors Manoj Bajpai and Prakash Raj. The ad will run on TV as well as digital mediums during the IPL. The ads are similar and Manoj Bajpai’s ad will target the Hindi-speaking markets, Prakash Raj’s version, in multiple southern languages, will target the South Indian markets.

Not just for IPL but Indian gaming platforms has also tied up for Caribbean Premier League. CPL which concluded on 10 September 2020 in Trinidad, Paytm First Games signed up for the sponsorship rights of Jamaica Tallawahs, one of the teams in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). Even MPL became the principal sponsor for Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR)

Earlier in the game plan, reports stated that once the overseas and domestic leagues start commencing, industry players expect a 20 to 25 per cent jump in the revenues of Q3 FY21 over the planned revenue. The stakeholders are also of the opinion that once things return to normalcy, a sharp recovery is expected with the leagues restarting. Companies like Dream11 have factored this into their hiring strategies with plans to add ~250 members in the near term to its existing team, MyTeam11 has also added 20 new members to its company during the lockdown and is looking forward to going ahead with hiring plans as it expands. With IPL 2020 season going on with full throttle, there is a growing sense that impact in terms of revenue will be huge and it will help the platforms to get back on their feet.