In 2018, when Tata Motors first came on board with the IPL as official partners, it was the company’s first major association with the T20 league since the latter’s inception, signalling a massive change of mindset in the salt-to-steel conglomerate’s sports ecosystem.
While Tatas stayed away from bidding for the title rights on Wednesday – due to technical reasons that BCCI did not agree upon – industry players expect the group to play a far bigger role in cricket over the coming years as against how they have perceived the sport in the past.
“Whenever the IPL comes out with a tender for new franchises, expect the Tatas to be in the race. Their perceptions have evolved over time and they see cricket differently now from how they used to,” say those who track the company closely.
Then, why exactly did the Tatas not come to the table on Wednesday?
Tatas wanted to block three categories as title sponsor – meaning, three different brands under their flagship – whereas BCCI maintained that Tatas could block only one single category.
For instance, Tatas may have looked to block three brands – Tata tea, Tata Motors & Titan – for title sponsorship and the deal would’ve ensured the company enough visibility through perimeter boards inside the stadium during matches and other branding opportunities.
BCCI put its foot down and insisted that Tatas could block only one category and not three. “That’s BCCI’s policy decision and any potential bidder has to live with it. Suppose BCCI would’ve allowed Tatas to block three categories – Tata Motors, Tata tea & TCS – they would not have had the option of inviting any of the rival brands in the market – Mahindra or Tetley or Infosys, for instance – on board,” says an industry executive.
It is for the first time since the inception of IPL that a company with more than a dozen categories showed interest in bidding for the title rights. Until now, only single-brand companies such as DLF (real estate), Pepsi (beverages and snacks) and Vivo (mobile manufacturers) were playing the field.
“What this episode has done is given BCCI an opportunity to look at this proposed Tata deal from a different viewpoint and look at the possibilities it can explore in the future where bringing multi-brand companies on board is concerned,” industry executives say.
For now, what can be underlined with a bit of clarity is that Tatas and cricket – not the best of friends over the past decades – are unmistakeably looking at a new beginning. “Expect them to participate more in the game as and when opportunities arrive,” they add.