Aurora Magazine

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Low attendance and ratings have left brands in a dilemma for PSL 2018

Published in Mar-Apr 2017
Should brands take the risk and continue investing in Pakistan Super League?

Just before the launch of the first edition of PSL, I wrote in an article for Aurora’s November-December 2015 edition that “PCB needs to step outside the crease and take the challenge head-on. Meanwhile, let’s wait for our very own ‘Zong Chowka’ or a ‘TCS Run Out’.” Little did I know about the idiom ‘be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’

PSL is back and with a bang. That doesn’t necessarily mean a good bang. PSL 2016 had the benefit of the novelty factor. People were intrigued, players were ready; fans excited; sponsors reluctant. It made for a good spectacle. The cricket turned out to be good, and eventually, PSL made money and the sponsors got their money’s worth because of the relatively inexpensive sponsorship deals.

Now comes the second edition. Expectations are high. Sponsorship deals are more expensive. Simple demand and supply; more sponsors jump in and prices go up as PCB makes full use of the opportunity to sell every possible sponsorship opportunity.

However, there is an unexpected and unwanted twist in the story. The stands are empty. There are no crowds. Earlier it was a cold wave in Dubai, then rain and then the match-fixing demons.

Say what you may, PSL’s second edition is struggling to gain crowd attention, the Lahore final notwithstanding. Although the Sharjah part has been better than Dubai; Dubai was a dead affair from the beginning.

So here is your dilemma as a brand. You saw the success of PSL 2016 and you thought here is a great advertising opportunity. There are, as far as I have counted them, over a dozen branded packages. Careem Safe Moment, Cool & Cool Strategic Time Out, Homage Speed, HBL Drone Cam, Qatar Airways Third Umpire, Fruita Vitals Moment, QMobile Selfie Moment, Pepsi Catch A Crore and Brighto Colorful Innings.

This is apart from the main sponsors HBL and the team sponsors such as Pepsi Zalmi. Some of them are good to see; Careem in particular, especially after the recent banning incident. A tech-based venture entering into cricket sponsorship is something unheard of; young audiences are expected to watch the matches and they are the same audiences Careem is targeting – this seems like a good move. On the other hand, there is Homage (consumer electronics) and Brighto (paints) and I am not sure whether they will gain much from the sponsorship, mainly because their target audience is different from PSL’s.

The second problem is the sheer quantity of sponsorships. The winner here is PCB. PCB made profits during PSL 2016 because of the business model they devised and they are going to make profits in 2017 due to high sponsor interest. This, in itself, is good for the game. Yet for sponsors, this means losing their message in the clutter and this leaves both PCB and brands in a fix for PSL 2018.

PCB should reduce the cost of sponsorship for PSL 2018 so that brands can overcome lost revenues from the low ratings and crowds in PSL 2017.

Brands will face a dilemma. Should they back out given the low ratings in PSL 2017? Yet, if they do so, they may miss out if PSL 2018 is revamped and turns out as successful as the 2016 edition. Or should they take the risk and continue investing in PSL, even if there is a possibility that PSL 2018 will have even lower ratings and crowd attendance?

No matter which way it goes, it is heartening to see that cricket has its takers in Pakistan despite the fact that there have been no real international matches in Pakistan for almost a decade.

Way to go, PCB.

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


This is with reference to your recently published article: ‘Low attendance and ratings have left brands in a dilemma for PSL 2018’ by Sami Qahar.

Our client PCB and we at Blitz are deeply shocked to see such incorrect claims without any factual data.

Firstly, this article has nothing to do with ground realities and clearly shows how unaware the author is about them in terms of PSL, cricket and audience ratings, since contrary to the article, PSL 2 has become one of the highest rated tournaments in Pakistan’s cricketing history. If fact, audiences have massively followed the tournament and the ratings clearly depict that. In fact, because of PSL 2, other genres have lost their audiences.

Secondly, the author talks about advertisers and getting their money’s worth in 2016 but becoming too expensive in 2017. I would like to point out that PSL 2 was most anticipated event of 2017; audiences not only follow a tournament/ event by being present at the venue but are also highly involved via other mediums such as television, radio, internet, mobile etc. The audiences consistently followed each and every match with great interest and the final in Lahore broke all ratings records for TV in Pakistan.

Thirdly, with regard to low turnouts, this year’s gate money was considerably higher than last year.

Fourthly, please find a detailed analysis of the ratings for PSL 2 as per Kantar which is the official currency for audience measurement in Pakistan:

Finally, the author writes, “Brands will face a dilemma. Should they back out given the low ratings in PSL 2017? Yet, if they do so, they may miss out if PSL 2018 is revamped and turns out as successful as the 2016 edition. Or should they take the risk and continue investing in PSL, even if there is a possibility that PSL 2018 will have even lower ratings and crowd attendance?”

I wonder what his sources are for making such absurd and irresponsible claims.

Shaukat Mahmud, COO, Spark Pakistan.


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Comments (26)

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citizen Apr 07, 2017 11:42am

Why IPL is making profit since inception and PSL loosing money? Looks like they got a better marketing strategy...

Imran Apr 07, 2017 12:33pm

PSL will continue growing..

Agha Apr 07, 2017 12:46pm

TV ratings of PSL 2017 were higher than PSL 2016 across all sports channel (PTV Sports, Tensports and Geo Super).

Basit Dilawaiz Apr 07, 2017 01:05pm

Stands in Dubai were empty for most part during the first IPL as well.

omveer Apr 07, 2017 02:33pm

Unless until the security situation improves and international cricket comes back to Pakistan, PSL will be a dud as international players will scoot like rabbits at the sound of crackers.

abdullah Apr 07, 2017 02:44pm

@citizen .its only losing money for people like the writer because he doesnt understand the basic concept of marketing you dont get returns on day 1 of marketing.brands are built when people see them and know them and what better way than a tournament like this.writer needs to research more else than just having an excuse to write.

Sarai alamgir Apr 07, 2017 02:44pm

Everyone is a critic, Pakistan's biggest problem is that we tend to give limelight to people who just shout for the sake of being heard. PSL is only 2 seasons old, for gods sake, give it time to breath and grow. And stop comparing it to the IPL, they have a population of over 1 billion compared to Pakistan's 200 million.

YOURSTRULY Apr 07, 2017 02:49pm

@citizen Everything shall be fine once CPEC starts

Dr. Afzal Apr 07, 2017 03:11pm

Imran Khan was right

Pakistan Apr 07, 2017 03:18pm

Are you kidding? PSL is the most successful sporting event in Pakistan history.

Ramesh Apr 07, 2017 03:48pm

Marketing is the most vague aspect of business. It makes no sense when this author says brands are losing money Just because the stands are empty. I mean the main market that these brands are trying to reach out to is in pakistan. So its irrelevant how many people are in the stands.

Whats relevant is viewership.

Because if u compare otherleagues and sponsors i dont think theres too much correlation between sales and cricket marketing. I think theoverall marketing strategy matters more

saud Apr 07, 2017 04:39pm

Advertisers look at TV ratings and not crowd attendance. The article should have compared TV ratings of 2016 and 2017 instead of stadium attendance.

lafanga Apr 07, 2017 04:39pm

still PSL is better than IPL in quality and performance.

Gone Apr 07, 2017 05:19pm

@abdullah: Good one!!!

RIyaz Apr 07, 2017 05:21pm

Is it true the net profit was just $2m?..thats how much a single player can make in IPL!

RAz Apr 07, 2017 05:26pm

@lafanga. Yes, and if you keep saying it over and over it becomes just like true. But seriously, you shd stop smoking your own produce!

Harry Apr 07, 2017 05:40pm

With all Due Respect to Author the Attendance in this edition of PSL was better, plus during Play-offs the stadiums were jammed packed in and out. (Dubai) Lastly about brands investing, the Cricket craze during PSL was insane majority was following it irrespective of SEC class. On top of that it's the Ratings that mattered for brands not attendance and they were out of the roof for this edition.

indian Apr 07, 2017 06:18pm

@lafanga can you please explain how psl is better in quality than ipl.

GAUR Apr 07, 2017 06:32pm

@lafanga living in delusions.

SarcasticBoy Apr 08, 2017 02:51am

@Pakistan I agree..The dubai premiere league indeed was the most successfull league in cricket history.

PRO Apr 08, 2017 10:21am

@RAz @indian @GAUR Well if you keep seeing PSL through cheerleaders' prism, you won't understand the beauty.

Scp Apr 08, 2017 10:55am

@lafanga Frog in well

irfan uk Apr 08, 2017 01:52pm

As soon as we start playing in Pakistan it will be a different story and very successful indeed.

Akbaruddin Imtiaz Apr 09, 2017 06:37am

@YOURSTRULY I doubt that CPEC with no diversity will be our ticket to prosperity

Akbaruddin Imtiaz Apr 09, 2017 06:37am

@RIyaz yeah

Prashant Apr 09, 2017 06:01pm

The article has undermine the fact that psl despite not being played is Pakistan had acheived success. If this is not a good marketing strategy, then what is.