As influencer marketing becomes a commonplace strategy in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and other sports within the country, operators and firms alike must educate customers about the products that sports stars and celebrity personalities are advertising.
Parimatch, a firm that teamed up with MMA icon Conor McGregor in 2019, is one such company that places a strong emphasis on influencers.
Speaking on the Marketing and Advertising panel at SBC Digital – India, Japneet Sethi, India Marketing Lead at Parimatch, touched upon the ‘penetration of social media’ and how such individuals should attempt to educate their audiences, as opposed to altering perceptions of sports betting altogether.
“Especially when you talk about cricket as a game, the factor of being responsible here is the history of the sport that you feed,” Sethi noted. “Education here is very important, rather than changing the perception, because when you educate people with the right set of factors, the right set of key words and the right set of communication, that is how you change the perception.
“So rather than using influencers to just change the perception of what is seen as a taboo, you should focus on communication which educates the audience. Change should come from the people who you look up to, which are the influences.”
The rise in the use of influencers and social media owes to India’s youthful population. Vishesh Bhandari, Chief Executive Officer of Stock Market Fair, cited statistics that show 65% of the country’s population are below the age of 35, and many young people look up to influencers and view them as ‘Gods’.
One prime example is Shah Rukh Khan, who is often referred to as the ‘King of Bollywood’. The Indian actor currently co-owns the Kolkata Knight Riders of the IPL, as well as investing in Caribbean Premier League side Trinbago Knight Riders.
Bhandari explained: “Influencer marketing is one of the fastest growing industries in India. Nowadays, it is a priority of every advertiser, and it has grown to about 300% this year. Around 65% of advertisers are using influencer marketing as a strategy of user acquisition. In India, influencer marketing helps brands have better engagement. It also reduces the cost of user acquisition.”
This sentiment was echoed by Sebastian Paris, Chief Operating Officer of Bwise Media, who concurred that responsible messaging must be at the forefront when enlisting the help of influencers.
“I think the number one target should be to simply protect the youth,” he said. “If you look at cricket coverage, and particularly the IPL in 2020, there was so much advertisement around, not just fantasy but also the grey area in gaming so the restrictions are basically the guidelines that have been put in place now afterwards. They were caused by some tragic events, such as certain suicides that happened in the aftermath that were related back to gambling issues.
“I think it’s super important to simply protect the youth to protect vulnerable players. Having really clear guidelines on what is communicated and how it is communicated, and who we are targeting with our advertisement is incremental in making sure that this beautiful industry keeps its very good reputation that we focus on entertainment rather than just a money making machine.”
He went on to discuss the evolving nature of the industry, which has been forced to move with the times when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.
“COVID has struck the whole sports and sports media market significantly. We’ve seen all kinds of sports betting operators and sports media companies struggling very much in the middle to end the first outbreak and in the first month.
“Luckily, in the second half of 2020 we were able to regain a lot of those users back into the sports platforms and on both sides for sports publishers. Everything that has happened in the last year has accelerated digitalisation even further.”