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Idea ends sponsorship deal with IPL team 2 yrs before schedule
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NEW DELHI: Mumbai Indians, the Indian Premier League team owned by Mukesh Ambani, has lost its largest sponsorship deal with Idea Cellular walking out of the $2-3 million per year contract two years before schedule.

"We were not very happy with the Mumbai Indians association; it did not give us the branding impact we had hoped for," said an Idea Cellular official, defending its decision to terminate the Rs 10-15 crore/year deal signed just before the second edition of Indian Premier League earlier this year.

The spokesperson of the telecom operator, however, refused to confirm or comment on the termination of the deal. An email query sent to Mumbai Indians, led by Sachin Tendulkar, remained unanswered.

Cricket remains of prime import to Idea’s marketing plans though, particularly with India becoming the world’s top test team for the first time on Sunday.

It is now looking at a larger branding play with GMR-owned Delhi Daredevils, said the official talking on condition of anonymity. In October, Idea had picked up a one-year sponsorship of Delhi Daredevils for the Champions League Twenty20 tournament and IPL season three. The sponsorship involves Delhi Daredevils players displaying Idea logos on their jersey. Virender Sehwag, the talk of the town after his magnificent 293 in the third and final test against Sri Lanka that confirmed India’s rise to the top, captains the Delhi team.

Idea Cellular’s deal to become Mumbai Indians’ principal sponsor in the telecom services category was the biggest deal signed by any IPL franchisee for season two. Most of the other deals were in the Rs 2-5-crore-per-year bracket. At the time of the signing of the deal just before the second season of IPL earlier this year, both sides had agreed on a three-year association.

Soon after IPL was forced to relocate to South Africa, Idea and Mumbai Indians had drummed up an elaborate four-phase campaign, which aimed to connect the team’s players Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan with cricket fans. The campaign involved fans getting to call or SMS the cricketers, give them playing suggestions and wishing them good luck. Each player’s Idea number was flashed across mass media platforms. While Tendulkar, Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan had led the communication, similar 10 digit numbers were assigned to others in the Mumbai Indians team like Sri Lanka’s Sanath Jayasuriya and West Indian Dwayne Bravo.

Other activation by Idea involved providing cricket updates, gaming, match videos and photographs. The campaign activity was not restricted to Idea subscribers and all operators, including landlines, had the option of ‘calling’ Mumbai Indians players. Idea’s tagline had been ‘duniya hila denge Indians’. Mumbai Indians’ other sponsors for IPL season two included chewing company Wrigley, beverage and snacks maker PepsiCo, MasterCard, Adidas and Pernod Richard.

With India sitting pretty on top of the cricketing world and the IPL joining the list of most popular sporting brands in the world, most marketers are looking at leveraging the Twenty20 league as a significant activation opportunity next year when it returns to the country after a year’s gap.

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