Aurora Magazine

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Can the Pakistan Super League get its marketing act together?

Published in Nov-Dec 2015
The PSL will have an uphill task if it is to survive – and much will depend on how it's marketed.
Illustration by Creative Unit.
Illustration by Creative Unit.

Cricket, like most other sports has become a business and a multibillion dollar business at that. Although I am a purist ruing the loss of the authenticity of the gentlemen’s game, many people hold (and I am not saying that they are totally wrong) that sport needs to be run like a business. Fair enough. Financial statements matter. What is not right is the inequitable distribution of wealth; just like in any other walk of life.

Here are some numbers.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has an annual net income of $128 million after tax (Source: ICC Annual Report 2014-15).

A projection of the next eight years’ profit stream by the ICC shows that a total of $2.58 billion will be distributed to its members. If there were no ‘big three’, every full member would receive $117 million from that income. Now, based on the new system, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) alone will receive $568 million out of the total, taking its share from four to 22%, while Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies and South Africa are set to collectively lose $162 million.

Contrast this with how TV money was distributed among the English Football Clubs in the 2012-13 season. Queens Park Rangers (QPR), which finished last still banked £39.75 million, roughly two thirds of what Manchester United (the champions) made (£60.8 million). United is a global brand, with millions of followers across the globe, while QPR are not even the fifth most popular club in London.

So what has given the BCCI so much power? Apart from being the cricket administrator for the largest cricket playing country in the world, a lot of credit has to go to the Indian Premier League (IPL). Forbes and The Economist have run lengthy articles on the business side of IPL, showing how it has introduced an unprecedented commercial element into Indian cricket.

Sponsorship money, broadcasting rights and on ground activities rake in millions of dollars every year. Although the success of the IPL led to the creation of other leagues – Caribbean Premier League, Sri Lankan Premier League, Bangladesh Premier League – none of them were able to replicate IPL’s success. Why? Because of the sheer size and mass appeal of IPL in terms of viewership and consumerism, thanks to a large Indian population and a growing economy. Now the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has announced the constitution of a Pakistan Super League (PSL).

Based purely on the business generated by the IPL, the PSL will not even come close to what the IPL brings to the BCCI and Indian cricket. So will a ‘me-too’ product be able to establish itself in cricketing as well as commercial terms? The answer is that it will be an uphill task with a lot of intricacies.

With the tournament played in the UAE, rusty international players signing up for it, delays in its inception and controversies (match fixing, corruption and sponsorship withdrawals), one can only question the timing and the logic of the idea itself; at best the PSL may turn out to be a glorified version of local T20 competitions.

Despite this, Sheikh opines that the PSL is still not a completely lost proposition.

“Brands such as HBL, PIA and UBL can still pump money into the PSL in the form of franchises and sponsorships; they have an established association with cricket and their own cricket teams. Plus they can always play a patriotism card.”

Behind all major sport events, there is a successful marketing campaign. From De Ghuma Ke to All in One Rhythm, sport events have to create a strong identity which becomes the reason why brands want to be associated with them.

Marketers in Pakistan see things differently. For example in the view of Shariq Mustafa, Regional Director Sales & Distribution, Telenor:- “the success of the IPL was based on multiple factors, which are missing here. Most significantly the fact that people will not be able to enjoy the game in Pakistan limits the chances of the PSL becoming a huge success. However, I think that the first edition of the PSL is still worth investing marketing dollars in, if only for the novelty factor. Even if the title sponsorship of the tournament proves too expensive, media mileage can still be gained through spots and sponsorships.”

The success of the IPL was based on a well-orchestrated execution. From the glamour brought by Bollywood to branding such as DLF Maximum and Pepsi IPL, their marketing team was able to create a strong product and the PSL will need to take a few learnings from their Indian counterparts. So far the logo and the launch event have been underwhelming and the marketing since has not been a show-stopper. Nonetheless, it’s still not all over.

The key will also be how many revenue streams the PSL will be able to generate. As Sheikh says, “the costs are huge and these cannot be covered only from gate money and broadcasting rights. There will have to be merchandising, franchise fees and more. From the broadcaster’s point of view, the offering will have to be attractive enough to gather sponsors.”

Although the sporting side of such events is always important, behind all major sport events, there is a successful marketing campaign. From De Ghuma Ke to All in One Rhythm, sport events have to create a strong identity which becomes the reason why brands want to be associated with them. Seen from this perspective, it will be very tough for the PSL to become a commercial success in the first year. However, they can still set the stage for bigger tournaments to come if they play their cards well. The PCB needs to step outside the crease and take the challenge head-on. Meanwhile, let’s wait for our own ‘Zong Chowka’ or a ‘TCS Run Out’.

Sami Qahar is a Dubai-based Pakistani looking for excuses to write. Aurora gives him a few.


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Comments (39) Closed

Mamu Jan Dec 04, 2015 12:39pm

Yeh IPL hai boss... Bas naam hi kaafi hai .

prasant Dec 04, 2015 01:15pm

Upsetting Bcci is nothing but suicide for pcb..

GS Dec 04, 2015 01:25pm

PSL does not have a web presence or a Twitter account ? Shocking !

Alam Dec 04, 2015 01:54pm

TCS Run Out...TCS is World 2nd Biggest IT company...and Employs around 3.25 lakh Indians in IT software industry...So no chowka for pakistan possible

Bahar ali Dec 04, 2015 03:07pm

Actual PSL will not make any money, is on no profit / loss, but off course it will make some organization wealthy.

Karma Dec 04, 2015 03:29pm

...Wonder how much crowd PSL attracts during weekdays...PSL is run purely on TV rights money...I can see few decent crowd during BPL in every match..

ABCD Dec 04, 2015 03:46pm

It is not cricket but marketing of cricket. Hire LM (Lalit Modi), he will show you ways.

Umair Dec 04, 2015 05:01pm

@Karma thing is all the south asian communities are there in UAE. It won't be only Pakistani's going for the games, I am sure there will be a lot of Indian's, Sri Lankan's and Bangladeshi's as well. It is a different scenario in Pakistan games but with the presence of global stars, I am sure other communities will be attracted to it.

yasir Dec 04, 2015 05:22pm

@Alam TCS referred by author is leading but local courier company in Pakistan

SRIKANTH Dec 04, 2015 05:45pm


Saqib Dec 04, 2015 06:14pm

Pakistanis are experts at selling themselves short, considering its being played outside the country, its still a good deal. At the height of Sri Lanka civil war, everyone still went there to play cricket, it has less then 10% of Pakistan land area, and 10% of Pakistan population, but they know how to defend their position. We need to develop self respect.

Anuj Dec 04, 2015 06:18pm

@Alam Where did you got those figures from? 3.5 lacs!!!

Anuj Dec 04, 2015 06:19pm

Is this article about PSL or IPL vs PSL.

Adil Khan Dec 04, 2015 06:30pm

May be PSL should be about quality and no fixing! Make it kosher and we may have a product to die for.

Also add, in a peoples' team selected through internet and allowed free entry every year. This will generate major interest.

Anuj Dec 04, 2015 06:33pm

Its not just about having money, marketing is something where India is excellent. It doesn't need any outside help.

wellwisher Dec 04, 2015 06:38pm

Clinton said,"its the economy,stupid". This holds good for IPL and PSL.

Thoroughthinker Dec 04, 2015 07:49pm

Big three is a big bribery syndicate!

gp65 Dec 04, 2015 08:21pm

"Fair enough. Financial statements matter. What is not right is the inequitable distribution of wealth; just like in any other walk of life."

Good point. There is a difference between equity which means fairness and equality. Equal distribution of earnings when the generation of income is disproportionately from 3 countries is unfiar or inequitable. The new system actually restores equity instead of allowing countries that do not generate revenue to simply coast based on efforts of the other countries. Nothing to do with IPL which isnot even under ICC umbrella.

ares Dec 04, 2015 08:27pm

except Pakistan no one compares with IPL. Why does Pakistan wants to ape India and later boast they are better.

Amir Dec 04, 2015 09:20pm

So far going good PSL. with the big players involved it will be a success and Pakistan will get talent out of it. Well done PCB and keep up the good work.

Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany Dec 05, 2015 12:36am

Marketing of this event, had it been held in Pakistan, would have had limitations. It would have contradicted some Mullahs Islamic views. Can you imagine female cheer leaders dancing in Pakistan. They would be males probably.

RIZ Dec 05, 2015 01:46am

After reading comments I can tell Indians are already scared of PSL. Whatever money PCB have or will have from PSL it will be white money it's won't be IPL black money. Whole world knows that IPL is the place of gambling and PSL will be the place where people will enjoy cricket.

Allaisa Dec 05, 2015 06:07am

BCCI contributes 80% to the total revenue of ICC. So by right they should get over $2 billion, but they are getting only $540 million, thus losing a whopping $1.5 billion. That is very generous of them.

Te Stv Dec 06, 2015 02:05am

Axact Clean Bowled! That could be used both ways :P

Mms Dec 06, 2015 10:38am

Hire an Indian for marketing and then wait for the results.

Indian Dec 07, 2015 04:47pm

@Anuj : He is right. TCS has now more than 3.5 lacs employees currently. CTS has more than 2.2 lacs employees and Infy has more than 1.8 lacs employees. Wipro has more than 1.6 lacs and both Tech Mahindra & HCL have more than 1 lacs employees.

Anuj Dec 07, 2015 10:06pm

@RIZ keep telling that to yourself. PSL will fail just like your economy.

Anuj Dec 07, 2015 10:07pm

@RIZ PSL depends on Indian money, can do anything on your own.

Revenge Dec 07, 2015 10:08pm

@RIZ That's why Pakistani players crave to play in it. Hahaha...

Divakar Dec 08, 2015 04:01pm

@gp65 .200% right.

Divakar Dec 08, 2015 04:06pm

@RIZ .Thanks for the humourous comment.

Shobhit Dec 17, 2015 02:19pm

Why would TCS sponsor in PSL when there is no audience in Pakistan who would recognize them ? TCS is a IT Giant based out of India, Pakistan would not know about them.

Citizen Dec 17, 2015 02:31pm

@RIZ : you hit the nail PSL games will be neat since none of the Pakisthan players are interested in match fixing!

hellboy Dec 17, 2015 07:02pm

@Anuj :Just check Tata consultancy services in wiki.Every year it recruit around 40 to 50 thousands freashers.

Noorani Dec 21, 2015 01:56pm

@Alam TCS is courier services company which is well known in London and other East Countries. The Pakistani-oriented company will surely sponsor PCB in PSL, So please all Indian brothers don't make a mountain of molehill.


Wait n Watch - Abhi to Party Shru Hui Hai....

CRICHORN Dec 22, 2015 09:35am

India has set the precedent, others can learn from its successes and mistakes.

Akram Dec 23, 2015 02:30am

Will PSL broadcast in the UK? There are more than one million Pakistanis with money here, a market the organisers should remember. That doesn't include all the other cricket fans.

Apoorv Swarup Dec 23, 2015 09:13am

Comparing ICC's distribution system with EPL is deeply flawed (with a fellow domestic league like IPL would be better). Every country which is an ICC member isn't nearly the same size or has the same potential to further develop cricket in their nation. I can very well hand over a ton of money for instance to west indies (a bunch of island nations) but given that the total population it can reach out to and thus the total amount of interest and revenue it can create for the game would be remarkably low at best. In EPL the size and even the population of most counties competing isn't different to the magnitude of difference that exists between different cricket playing nations. Is the big three deal fair? no it isn't but would an EPL like distribution system make better sense? hell no especially considering that India is responsible for generating over 80% of that total $128 million income of the ICC and has by far the largest potential to generate further returns on investment.

Raj Jan 05, 2016 12:51pm

@Anuj Why don't you google "TCS" and get yourself!!