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Guest Column

Published on: Nov. 3, 2020, 1:27 a.m.
The new 'hotspot'
  • Title sponsor Dream11

By Bela Desai. The author is Promoter Director of Greycells Education. It pioneered the concept of industry led program in Sports Management in 2008 and conducts courses under the brand Ironwood Sports. Email: bela@greycellsltd.com

The coronavirus has brought about a sea change the world over, in all aspects of life. For a few months the entire world came to a standstill with the enforcement of lockdown everywhere. Gradually, things are beginning to normalise but certain things have come to stay and will continue, like the rise of players in the digital space. There has virtually been no entertainment, with cinemas and malls being closed. Sport has also suffered, leaving millions of fans starved. The IPL seemed to be a doubtful starter, but with the herculean efforts of the BCCI, it is no longer a dream but a reality.

On 19 August 2020, BCCI announced Dream11 as the new title sponsor of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League. Gaming unicorn Dream11, a market leader in the fantasy gaming space, swooped in on the title sponsorship for Rs222 crore – half of what Vivo paid in 2019. In 2019, Dream11 became a unicorn – a start-up valued at a billion dollars or more – when it raised $60 million in a funding round led by hedge fund Steadview Capital.

With over 90 million users, the fantasy league attracts over 33 per cent of the fan engagement of the game. It has managed 60 million requests per minute after it experienced a surge of 44.4 per cent traffic volume in the IPL 2020 opener against the final match of IPL 2019. It witnessed above 8,000 contest joins per second. There were more than 18 million contest joins in a single match, above 20,000 team updates per second and about 7.9 million entries in a single contest. In addition to the sponsorship deal, Dream11 will shell out at least Rs50 crore of advertising inventory.

Interestingly, four of the six sponsors of the IPL are on the online platform. Edtech unicorn Unacademy and credit card payments company CRED signed up as official partners, shelling out Rs130 crore each for a three-year association. Paytm is the fourth major sponsor from the digital world while the other two in the central sponsorship pool include Tata Motors Altroz and CEAT Tyres. Post-Covid, players in the online platform have capitalised on the rise of the digital economy and have used this as an opportunity to make hay while the sun shines.

  • This tactical move comes at a time when the only way fans can engage with the sport is on a digital platform

This tactical move comes at a time when the only way fans can engage with the sport is on a digital platform. Following the footsteps of Dream11, other mobile applications have benefitted from the sponsorship deal, with an increase in the number of users on their respective platforms as well as a higher retention rate of users.

These companies have invested substantial monies to up their game in terms of sponsorships, advertising and brand ambassadors. Every fantasy gaming company in India has a major cricketer or former cricketer on board as a brand ambassador. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who captains the IPL team Chennai Super Kings, is the brand ambassador for Dream11; BCCI president Sourav Ganguly is the face of My11Circle; MyTeam11 has Virendra Sehwag; and Mobile Premier League has Virat Kohli.

The Indian fantasy sports market has shown phenomenal growth, with gross revenues at Rs2,400 crore in 2019-20, as against Rs920 crore in 2018-19, reveals a recent FIFS-KPMG report. The worth of the Indian fantasy sports industry is expected to rise to $3.7 billion by 2024.

The country has also witnessed a 700 per cent increase in the past decade in the number of fantasy sports operators and a 2,500 per cent increase in the number of fantasy sports players. This tremendous surge will serve as a great catalyst for the sports management industry and is nothing short of a Y2K moment for fantasy leagues in India.

Going forward, this is likely to open an all-new chapter for career opportunities in sports-related areas for sports enthusiasts and sports management students from varied backgrounds including software engineers, data analytics, fan engagement, sports media and marketing. Vocational education in the sports management and e-sports sector is expected to skyrocket and provide ample avenues for sports management students.

*This column has been co-authored with Aditya Arun, Partner, Sporting Minds Academy. He can be reached at adithya@ironwoodsports.com

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal and the author is not responsible in any manner for the use which might be made of the above information.

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