Cricket is the 2nd most-watched sport in the world, with 2.5 billion viewers. The Indian Premier League launched in 2008 and forever changed the face of cricket.

The IPL changed the face of cricket. Photo is of a cricket match in the IPL.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) changed the face of cricket.
Photo by Chandrachoodan Gopalakrishnan, from Wikimedia Commons.

Cricket features both men’s and women’s teams. Played in over 100 countries, cricket bears similarities to American baseball. There are three competitive formats of the game: Test, One-Day International (ODI), and Twenty20 (T20). A Test match, played over five days, is the classic form of the game. ODIs and T20 matches last one day.

Introduced in 2003 by the England and Wales Cricket Board, T20 is the newest format in cricket. Played in three hours, with twenty overs per side, this is the shortest format of the game. Traditionalists feared this format could debase cricket. Yet, T20s popularity has risen to unprecedented levels. Capitalizing on this format’s popularity, India launched the Indian Premier League (IPL) in 2008. Now in its 13th year, the IPL has forever changed the face of cricket. Injecting fun and entertainment into a once-staid sport, it has made India a giant in the cricket world.

For decades, Australia and England dominated the cricketing world. The western nations reigned not only supreme on the field, but they also held power off of it. They were full members and rule-makers on the International Cricket Council (ICC). The ICC is the governing body for world cricket. The IPL changed the power balance in world cricket.

What Is the IPL?

The IPL is the biggest cricket competition in the world. The image is of an IPL cricket game featuring Mumbai Indians.
IPL is the biggest T20 competition in the world.
Photo by Ashok Prabhakaran from Wikimedia Commons.

The IPL is a T20 professional cricket league. It is the world’s biggest annual cricket competition, comprising 8 teams or franchises. The teams include international and Indian cricketing stars. They play the IPL over 6 weeks, usually between March and May.

Each team plays each other twice during the round-robin stage. At the end of this stage, the four top teams qualify for the playoffs. The top 2 teams play each other in a qualifying match, with the winner advancing to the final. The loser of this match plays the winner of the match between teams 3 & 4. The winner of this second qualifier match advances to the final.

In 2020, COVID-19 fears delayed the start of the tournament. With cost-cutting measures in place, they moved the IPL to the United Arab Emirates. This was in response to the rising coronavirus infections in India. They could not guarantee the safety of all participants. Fortunately, the IPL has lost little support.

The IPL Fact Sheet

IPL quick facts. Image is of half a keyboard on the left, a page with charts and figures in the middle and a set of colored pens on the right.
IPL quick facts.
Photo by Lukas from Pexels.

Here are some quick facts about IPL:

  • The 8 teams in the league are city or state-based franchises.
  • The 2020 franchises are
    • Mumbai Indians,
    • Royal Challengers Bangalore
    • Delhi Capitals- Rajasthan Royals
    • Sunrisers Hyderabad
    • Kings XI Punjab
    • Kolkata Knight Riders
    • Chennai Super Kings
  • The Mumbai Indians franchise fee, secured in 2008, is USD 111.9 million, payable over ten years.
  • Franchises gain players via player auctions, trades between teams, and replacement player contracts.
  • Each team has its own website, social media accounts, and fan zones. These accounts record a remarkable level of traffic during the competition. Mumbai Indians have 5.8 million followers.
  • Cheerleaders from the Washington Football team trained the franchises’ cheerleaders.
  • The IPL generates millions of dollars (US) for the Board of Control for Cricket in India, the broadcaster, and the teams.
  • The IPL 2020 opening week, starting 19 September 2020, garnered 269 million viewers.

Three Cornerstones of the IPL

There are three cornerstones of the IPL. Image depicts three Greek and Roman cornerstone pillars.
There are three cornerstones of the IPL’s success.
Image by aleceratti from Pixabay.

The IPL has grown into a mega-brand thanks to a brilliant marketing strategy. Thirteen years since its launch, the IPL’s brand value has grown from strength to strength. In 2019, Duff and Phelps valued the brand at
6.7 billion USD. Everyone involved in the IPL is a beneficiary of the league’s success. From the Indian cricket board (BCCI) to the players and broadcasters. These are the three cornerstones of the IPL which entrenched its popularity:

The Stars

India’s dominant sport is cricket. Indians are passionate and knowledgeable about cricket. They revere their local cricket superstars and international players. The IPL depends on its ability to attract global cricketing superstars. India’s cricket stars complete the formula for the league’s success. All players are active on social media during the competition.

From the start, the IPL leveraged the drawing power of India’s iconic players. They assigned cricketing legends, such as Sachin Tendulkar, to their home city teams to create local support. Tendulkar, then the most popular cricketer in India, joined the Mumbai Indians. His ardent supporters followed his home team, all over India during the IPL competition. After his retirement from international cricket, Tendulkar served on the management team of Mumbai Indians.

The IPL has served as a launchpad for young, domestic, and international talent. It has also extended the careers of once-retired cricketing greats. It enticed experts in fielding, bowling, and batting into coaching and management roles. Jonty Rhodes and Shane Warne are two legends of the game, still revered in India. After more than a decade in retirement, they continue to play a role in the IPL.

The Entertainment

Team cheerleaders form part of the entertainment in the IPL. Photo is of three cheerleaders on a podium in a packed stadium.
Team cheerleaders entertain the crowds in the IPL.
Photo by Ramesh N from Wikimedia Commons.

Indians are passionate about two of their biggest exports: Bollywood and cricket. The IPL used Bollywood as a cornerstone for its success. Consortiums headed by Bollywood superstars are owners of two of the IPL franchises. According to Forbes, Shah Rukh Khan is the biggest movie star in the world and owns Kolkata Knight Riders. Preity Zinta, a popular Bollywood actress, owns Kings XI Punjab.

Celebrity owners draw other celebrities to the stadia. Cricket fans at the grounds support the celebrities and the game with equal fervor. It’s a perfect mix of India’s two great loves. Several international celebrities are also big fans of the IPL. It adds to the international appeal and popularity of the competition.

The IPL drew much initial criticism by introducing team cheerleaders. American-influenced dress and dance styles are anathemas to conservative India. It forced the IPL to tailor the entertainment to suit Indian cultural requirements. Without sacrificing the cheerleader concept. The team cheerleaders are an effective part of the IPL’s entertainment strategy.

The Sponsors

The IPL attracts many sponsors. The image is of a cricket batsman and the Pepsi IPL logo. Pepsi was the title sponsor for the IPL.
The IPL attracts major sponsors.
Photo credit Zerocric owner from Wikimedia Commons.

The IPL is a sports marketing phenomenon. It features in the advertising strategies of India’s top companies. They brand the IPL at franchise and individual levels. Indian business sponsors view the IPL as an important vehicle to build their brands. The competition also attracts foreign sponsors, such as Vivo and Pepsi. Given its worldwide following and its sold-out matches, the IPL is attractive to companies wanting to build a global brand.

The league signed Dream11, a fantasy sports platform, this year as its title sponsor for 31 million USD. Global broadcasting and digital rights deals are also a major money earner for the IPL. In 2018, Star India, the media and entertainment giant, signed a five-year deal for these rights for USD 2.55 billion.

Indian billionaire and business mogul, Mukesh Ambani is the owner of the Mumbai Indians. A consortium comprising Lachlan Murdoch owns the Rajasthan Royals, the inaugural winners of the IPL. A few other franchises are also owned by businesses. These owners are major sponsors of their franchises and the league.

How the IPL Changed the Power Balance in World Cricket

The IPL change the balance of power in world cricket. Image is of a gold scale, with round frames.
The IPL changed the balance of power in world cricket.
Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash.

Before the IPL, cricketers’ only potential employer was their national cricket boards. A country’s cricket union was powerful and had full control over the cricketer’s ability to play and earn. Their pay rates were low, and they were never in the pay league of football stars. The sport saw great financial returns. The players were not beneficiaries of this success.

The IPL changed the power balance in cricket. For 2019/2020, it is second to only the NBA in offering the highest player wages in the world. Cricket unions in New Zealand and England responded by raising player salaries. The West Indies struggled to do so, leading to a player revolt. The IPL offers massive salaries, access to the best coaches and fellow players, and franchises and fans who treat players like royalty.

Prior to the IPL, England and Australia were the rule-makers in the ICC. The IPL resulted in India becoming an economic powerhouse in the world of cricket. It is now a major financial contributor to the ICC in return for a more prominent status on the cricket council. With the largest single market for cricket in the world, India has helped shift the power balance in the sport. The major beneficiaries are the players and fans of cricket.

Other countries have tried to replicate the IPL’s success. Australia’s Big Bash League is the most successful of them, but it has yet to reach the IPL’s heights. Perhaps it’s the mixture of Bollywood and the single largest market for cricket that is the winning formula!