TV9 Bharatvarsh on IPL jerseys

In 2019, Aaj Tak, the Hindi TV news channel was the title sponsor for Kings XI Punjab IPL team. That meant they were given the front-of-jersey position for their logo.

In 2020, TV9 Bharatvarsh, another Hindi TV news channel has been signed up as the sponsor of not one, but 2 IPL teams – Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders. And that means the brand would be on the jerseys of both teams.

Colors TV continues to be on the back of Mumbai Indians’ jerseys.

Now, I would assume that there may be a difference between any brand/company vs. a TV channel sponsoring an IPL team with jersey-level presence (arm, front, back, cap etc.).

Even a General Entertainment Channel (GEC) like Colors TV sponsoring an IPL team may not be a big deal, but a TV news channel sponsoring could be.

Why? What’s the difference? A few, actually.

1. TV9 Bharatvarsh is a news channel, but it is also a brand that is pitched to advertisers to earn money/revenue. A news channel, in an ideal scenario, is supposed to earn that interest by talking about how appropriate their media platform would be for relevant advertisers (by connecting the channel’s audiences to the brands’ target users/buyers). But here, the channel is pitching itself for higher visibility amongst the target brands. Whether this brand building activity helps the channel earn more revenue (beyond just visibility) would again be a function of the channel convincing that their viewership is apt for the advertising brands.

2. The next perspective is that of who gains. Any other brand that is a sponsor is not a media channel/platform. A brand spends money to be featured in media platforms so that they are visible in front of the right target audience. So, a cola brand rides on an IPL team’s visibility and popularity to be better known, better loved and bought/consumed.

TV9 is a brand, of course, but is also already a media channel! In such a scenario, it makes more sense for Rajasthan Royals to pay TV9 for this sponsorship deal, instead of the other way around, because the media channel owns the eyeballs, not the team, that simply plays and is seen by all media platforms!

3. From an editorial perspective, a news channel is supposed to be beyond taking sides (though they take sides, these days, in every topic, including politics – that’s a vastly different topic altogether). Would this sponsorship mean the channels under TV9 would be more interested in reporting about this particular team? I do not know how Aaj Tak handled it last year (since I actively and completely tune out of IPL’s actual matches and focus only on the advertising and branding/marketing part).

4. The last perspective is from that of the media-channel-as-a-sponsor’s competitors. I had mentioned earlier that Colors TV, the GEC, sponsoring a team isn’t a big deal. That’s because, GECs do not have news reports, generally. They usually only have scripted entertainment. But rivals of TV9 Bharatvarsh (other Hindi TV news channels – and there are a lot of them in India) have news updates almost all through the day. And IPL match updates would feature as one of the more important updates in news during the time IPL is played. So, when they are airing the news about IPL scores, updates and highlights, they would necessarily need to also air video footage of the matches (purchased/in arrangement with/from the official TV broadcast partner). When they do this, wouldn’t they be giving free publicity to one of their rival TV news channels?

I’m curious to know how Aaj Tak’s rivals showed video footage last year, while fully knowing that their rival is getting free publicity on their own channels!

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