It was Micromax first. To experiment with cricket. To prove beyond doubt that cricket can be the best carrier for smartphone marketing in India. To grab precious space in the Indian smartphone market. The non-descript Indian brand had a mere 6.6% market share in 2012. There were few player and virtually no competition then. Micromax opted for the cricket route. With Micromax Asia Cup 2011-12. To jump to the second sport with 18% market share, only behind the global name Samsung. Then the smartphone market leader with 22% share in 2015. In the era of feature phones when Nokia would symbolize a mobile phone – just like thanda matlab coca cola and ‘Colgate’ being more a synonym for toothpaste than a brand.
Motorola, battling to stay afloat in Indian market, is realizing the potential of cricket. The American multinational, title sponsor of Rising Pune Supergiant, finds having the brand on the team jersey front won’t suffice. The company is exploring all means. The latest is the promotional video with the Pune team players, that Moto has shared on twitter.
— Moto India (@Moto_IND) April 15, 2017
Ever since, the war for ‘cricket spots’ has intensified as much between the smartphone players as their aggressive market to grab the smartphone market in India. The intensity, driven by marketing strategies, to grab marketing slots in premier cricketing events is high. The aggressive add spends by Chinese brands Oppo, Vivo and Gionee have pushed TV slots for IPL matches up by 40% since IPL 2016.
Gionee is now riding the IPL wave. Just like its other Chinese rival Vivo. The company, with plans to double its marketing spend to Rs 750 crores, has invested big on IPL properties. It’s the first time a single brand is appearing on the front jersey of two IPL teams. The company has followed up its existing three-year contract with Kolkata Knight Riders by another IPL team title signing – with Gujarat Lions.
The impact is instant. For Gionee. The brand, prominently visible on T-shirts of two IPL teams, strategically launched its Gionee A1 smartphone model. The pre-booking surpassed the magic figure of Rs 150 crores in ten days. “Gionee A1 is our first flagship of the year and we have received as many as 74,682 pre-orders (in first 10 days) around Rs 150 cores,” Mr Arvind Vohra, Gionee India CEO, has said. These are the highest pre-booking figure for the Rs 8,000-25,000 range smartphone.
Oppo, too, rates values derived from cricket high. The brand has strategically launched two models in less than a month to coincide with the big news of its big signing for Team India title sponsorship.
Smartphone Q4 results for smartphone market in India establish an interesting facts. Before sharing that fact, it is important to understand market trend. Four of the top five brands in the Indian market, led by Korean Samsung with 25.1% share, are Chinese. With Xiomi (10.7%), Lenovo (9.9%), Oppo and Vivo to follow. The last two have embraced the best two marketing slots around Indian cricket – the team India jersey and IPL title sponsorship, respectively. Next in that order stands Gionee, in race to break into top five.
The trends for the last quarter of 2016 reveal the brands that associate with cricket gain significantly on market share. The last placed among top five Oppo and Vivo were also the ones to adopt the cricket routes. Aggressive market strategy, coupled with the passionate following for cricket, make Vivo and Oppo the clear leaders in market share rise.
Vivo is also spending big on on-air for IPL broadcast. The IPL title sponsor is spending for 300 seconds per match @ Rs 5.20 lakh per 10 second slot. Oppo had grabbed the precious Team India jersey spot for a whopping Rs 1,079 crore for a five-year period. Vivo was the second highest bidder with 768 crore. Vivo was one of the most recalled brands during IPL 2016. Gionee currently enjoys 6% market share in India market. The growth is steady and marketing aggressive. The company, riding on the Virat Kohli brand value and support of two IPL team, is will be targeting the sharp decline of Lenovo. Experts believe company’s India-centric market plans, supported by cricket-based marketing, will soon see the brand among the top five. Quarter One results for 2017 are awaited.
The intense smart phone marketing war, akin to but not like ugly spats of coal war, will augur well for the cricketing world too. Values for the next session of the IPL media rights are going to go up three to four fold . The high ad slot demand, driven by phone majors, should play catalyst to number crunching for the IPL rights. Cricket market is indeed made smart by these phone wars.
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