After participating in three IPLs from 2008 to 2010, the franchises appear to have comprehended the gamut of the auction business and appear to have made smart bids, with a few exceptions.
The curious might have been surprised by Delhi Daredevils' decision to stick its neck out for Irfan Pathan at $1.9 million and also by the price-tag commanded by a handful of players.
Laid low by injury, Irfan has hardly stepped on the ground for several months, yet the Daredevils demonstrated confidence in the left-arm seamer, who, according to reports, has changed his action.
The unseemly part was the commotion over the refusal of the franchises, notably Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), to altogether ignore Sourav Ganguly. The fuss was all unnecessary; what was even more improper was a former India player virtually campaigning for his inclusion on the official broadcasting channel and hoping that someone would bid for the former India captain.
On the face of it, the franchises — including the new ones in the expanded IPL, Sahara Pune Warriors and Team Kochi — clearly had done their homework.
All along the franchises have made no secret of the fact that IPL is a business proposition with its revenue model offering opportunities to make it profitable over a period of time.
In a nutshell, the name of the game for the franchises is intense brand-building followed by good performance in the league. So, it's with this ultimate objective of brand-building that the franchises approached the auction.
With a consolidated salary cap of $9 million for each of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the auction at Bangalore allowed the franchises to target players with performance, potential and brand value and be a little more generous. It was $5 million in 2008, $2 million in 2009 and $750,000 in 2010.
The Kolkata Knight Riders provided a rousing start with a successful bid of $2.4 million for Gautam Gambhir. Shah Rukh Khan's team also went all out for Yusuf Pathan at $2.1 million and Jacques Kallis for $1.1 million.
At the outset it became very clear that KKR was keen to build a team placing cricketing merits uppermost rather than appeasing sentiments in Kolkata. Like a majority of the first group of eight franchises, KKR may have also realised that the time is upon it — this being the fourth season — to break-even or augment profit, if it has already made a surplus from the first three editions of the IPL.
First and foremost, KKR sent out a clear signal that it would not retain Ganguly as the only or first nomination (assuming that it would have probably gone for Chris Gayle as the second) and commit to a $1.83 million spend each for 2011 and 2012.
With a new CEO in Venky Mysore in place, KKR thought it would be better positioned and comfortable to build its brand around the likes of Gambhir, 2009 ICC Test Player, a batsman for all forms of the game and prospective future India captain, Jacques Kallis, one of the game's greatest all-rounders, and Yusuf Pathan, an explosive batsman fitting the Twenty20 format with a proven record; and possibly Brett Lee, quite popular in India.
The focus now would be riveted on the team and not on a single player, which is what a market analyst and keen IPL follower said: “The three major stakeholders in IPL are the broadcaster, franchises and the marketing people/advertisers.
The advertisers (for the team and broadcaster) do not commit on a long-term basis; it's suicidal. I do not know if the advertisers advise franchises on team selections.
“There would be further intensification of marketing from IPL-5. They will take it to new levels.”
On board KKR in the first three seasons were top brands like Tag Heuer, Nokia, Reebok, Next, Gitanjali Lifestyle, Sab Miller.
KKR would like to impress upon them to stick with the team. It goes without saying that multinational brands would like to associate with clients free of controversy.
Did not scandal-plagued Tiger Woods lose virtually all of his big deals with big brands?
With the players signed for 2011 and 2012, the franchises' marketing department will go on overdrive to rope in sponsors for their teams.
It's anybody's guess as to how the franchises build their brands around their players who would be paid millions to perform.
A few at least have some big Indian names. KKR — without Ganguly — has Gambhir and Pathan.