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Known for its crass commercialism, IPL teams, led by franchises such as Mumbai Indians, are now devoting more time and resources to the community through CSR type activities.
Ever since its launch in 2008, IPL has been a roaring business success. The league heightens the commercial paraphernalia of the game. The spinoffs have greater money value than the actual game itself.
But Corona seems to have knocked a sense of social responsibility to the league. Fans of teams and players were moved, like everyone else, to donate for the cause, help serve the poor, or even organize vaccination camps. Clubs are showing CSR spending and are focusing more attention on social issues.
In the past, commerce dominated the optics. The cheerleaders only added to the glitz and festivity.
A sure sign of the excess were the fan engagement apps. Dream 11, likely the biggest, was a hook that kept fans hooked. With real time data analytics keeping fans abreast of what was happening and biggies like Dhoni endorsing it, Dream 11 has been a bit hit among fans. Dream 11 asked fans to choose the team for a fee and rewarded those who guessed right. This was Online Rummy made respectable. There was no skill involved and it was purely a game of chance. It kept many fans hooked, even addicted, and many lost and continue to lose money in the guessing game.
In the past, commerce dominated the optics. The cheerleaders only added to the glitz and festivity. A sure sign of the excess were the fan engagement apps.
Fan engagement apps continue to be a roaring success. And IPL will continue to have such innovative merchandising milking every rupee out of the wheel of fortune the league has become. But along with it there seems to be an awareness that business alone cannot make good business all the time.
IPLs are franchises. Some are owned by companies formed for the purpose of having an IPL team while others owned by bigger companies and corporates. For instance, CSK is owned by India Cements, RCB by United Spirits, Lucknow Super Giants by RPSG group, Mumbai Indians by Reliance and Sunrisers by Sun TV Network. Quite often, these companies have their own CSR strategies and the teams get synced with those activities sometimes.
IPL teams are not only about business opportunities but also serve to enhance the brand value of its owners. For Shahrukh Khan, it has opened up a new facet to his celebrity and that has in turn enhanced his brand value. CSK has upped the brand value of India Cements, too.
Perhaps the leader in social responsibility is Reliance Foundation with which Mumbai Indians often attaches itself to. Besides moulding school level talent, the foundation conducts sports tournaments across India. Nita Ambani serves on the International Olympic Committee as its first woman member from India and this has come as a sign of where the foundation’s focus lies.
Mumbai Indians did a campaign for underprivileged kids, reaching some 18,000 of them and having them watch a Mumbai Indians match in 2016. Reliance Foundation has an Education and Sports for all campaign in which Mumbai Indians takes part. Physically challenged kids are a nice group they reach out for sports. During Covid, the foundation distributed 7.5 crore food packets to frontline health workers. In Chennai, Reliance Foundation often leases Nehru Stadium for all the sports tournaments it conducts for various age groups in various games.
During Covid, CSK announced that it was launching a three-year project for disaster management and promoting healthcare. In 2020-21, it spent Rs 1.6 crore for CSR activities that involved support to vaccination camps and so on. In a recognition that talent could come small towns, CSK recently announced it was setting up a cricket academy in Salem.
IPLs are franchises. Some are owned by companies formed for the purpose of having an IPL team while others owned by bigger companies and corporates. Quite often, these companies have their own CSR strategies and the teams get synced with those activities sometimes.
Individual cricketers dipped into their personal wallets to help. Pat Cummins was among them. Shikhar Dhawan was another. CSK fans organized immunization camps. They often take up service projects much like film fans in Tamil Nadu. RCB fans organized a massive blood donation drive for thalassemia-afflicted children. RCB has taken up the Go Green initiative and champions tree planting.
In a CSR type activity, Juhi Chawla of KKR has taken up women empowerment projects in Bengal villages.
Punjab Kings XI owned by actress Preity Zinta has been active in Odisha. Players were a blue band for child immunization. The team supports underprivileged children in that state though Kings XI is not a champion team and doesn’t have resident icons. Rajasthan Royals too has been in the CSR news. It has partnered with Stepathlon to provide wellness programs for its fans.
It may all still only be brand building but it brings out the more social side of brand building. There is some fan engagement and attempts to support fans. There are attempts to serve the broader community like KKR’s initiatives and Reliance Foundation’s. It may well be a matter of time before IPL teams too make a name for themselves in more substantial community programs that go beyond talent scouting and mere brand building.
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