Fantasy sports platform Dream11 will be Indian Premier League's title sponsors for this season.
Fantasy gaming platform Dream11, on Tuesday, won the Indian Premier League title sponsorship rights with a bid of Rs 222 crore, replacing Chinese mobile phone company Vivo for a four-and-a-half-month deal.
Dream11 has been one of the IPL sponsors for a couple of years now.
"Dream11 has won the rights with a bid of Rs 222 crore," IPL chairman Brijesh Patel told PTI.
There is a possibility that Dream11 can stay till the 2022 IPL in case Vivo doesn't come back next year. Dream11 will be then paying Rs 240 crore each for 2021 and 2022. This will make it an average of Rs 234 crore per year for three years.
Vivo had secured the IPL sponsorship rights for 2018-2022 for nearly 22 billion rupees ($293 million) but pulled out of this year’s tournament amid a backlash against Chinese firms in India following a clash on the two countries’ border in June in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
It was learnt that multinational conglomerate Tata group didn't place a final bid while two education technology companies -- BYJUs (201 crore) and Unacademy (170 crore) -- came second and third respectively. The Tatas may have had filed Expression of Interest but they were never interested in bidding. "BCCI wanted Tata as their presence adds a lot of credibility," an industry insider said.
Dream11 is an Indian company founded by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth. "Dream11 stakeholders, including its founders plus all 400 plus employees, are Indian," a Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) source said.
"Their Indian investors are Kalaari Capital and Multiples Equity. Even Dream11's product is available exclusively for use only by Indians. Only a single-digit percentage minority stake is held by Tencent," the official added.
However, as recently as last month, the BCCI's Anti Corruption Unit (ACU) had sought an inquiry against the company after it was reported that the platform had links to a fake T20 league which was held in a Punjab town but was live-streamed as a game in Sri Lanka.
The ACU investigations showed that kits used by players in the tournament had the Dream11 logo and the event was live streamed on FanCode.
Both Dream11 and FanCode are part of Dream Sports group. It couldn't be confirmed whether the BCCI's ACU is still investigating Dream11.
BCCI insiders feel that the Dream11 deal, along with the official sponsorship amount coming from UnAcademy and payment app Cred -- the two companies that have come on board in Central sponsorship pool -- will cover the losses to a considerable extent. The two companies have paid Rs 40 crore each and BCCI's total income from official sponsorship is Rs 222 crore plus Rs 80 crore, which adds up to Rs 302 crore.
"Think for four months and you will see that it's not at all a bad deal for such a short span of time," another BCCI veteran said.
Some social media users were critical of BCCI’s decision to award the rights to Dream11, which counts Chinese tech giant Tencent among its marquee investors, given the anti-China sentiments.
Dream11 can use Virat Kohli's image
Dream11 will have to contend with a couple of rival companies as individual players sponsors. One such is company Mobile Premier League (MPL) which has Indian captain Virat Kohli as its brand ambassador.
Asked if there could be a potential case of ambush marketing, a senior official said, "No".
"We have to check the players image rights clause but if there is a stakeholder involved in BCCI property, the centrally contracted players will have to be available for endorsements," a source in the know of things said.
He then explained that the same issue has always been there with the apparel sponsors.
"Team India had Nike as its jersey sponsors all these years but there were players who endorsed Zeven, Rohit Sharma is with Adidas and Kohli is with Puma. I guess there won't be a problem," he said.
"Remember whenever Nike unveiled a new jersey, they had all top players and they also endorsed their individual brands," he said.