Vivo 'could renew IPL sponsorship' despite major Fifa deal
By Simon Ward
Vivo, the Chinese mobile phone maker, is interested in remaining the title sponsor of cricket’s high-profile Indian Premier League despite its new commitment to soccer’s World Cup.
On Wednesday, Vivo was named as a second-tier ‘World Cup Sponsor’ for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments in Russia and Qatar, respectively, in a deal with Fifa reported to be worth €400 million ($450 million) over six years.
The move tallies with efforts by the brand to expand into new international markets, including eastern Europe and the Middle East, having already progressed beyond its home country into territories such as south-east Asia and India.
However, it still intends to pursue a regional strategy and is considering bidding to retain an association with the IPL, the world’s top annual Twenty20 competition, according to Mark Gao, the chief executive of Momentum Sports, the Chinese agency that represents Vivo in its sponsorship deals.
The tender for the IPL title sponsorship rights for the next five years was launched on Wednesday and doubts have been raised over Vivo’s continued involvement given the likely competition for the contract and its new investment in soccer.
However, Gao told Sportcal: “They are talking about a renewal. They are trying very hard because they have seen the benefits from the first two years. The business grew a lot in India.
“Maybe the price will go up, but they are looking at it.”
In 2016, Vivo replaced Pepsi as the title sponsor for the IPL in a two-year deal reported to be worth Rs2 billion ($31.1 million). The soft drinks giant had pulled out three years into a five-year contract worth Rs3.97 billion.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India placed advertisements in newspapers this week to promote the title sponsorship opportunity.
Interested parties were informed they could request the relevant documents from the governing body’s headquarters in Mumbai between 1 and 21 June in return for a non-refundable payment of Rs300,000. Bids must be submitted by 27 June.
Separate tenders for event services and broadcasting rights for the IPL for 2018 onwards will be launched on 12 June and 17 July, respectively.
In March, Vivo lost out to Chinese rival Oppo in the bidding for the main sponsorship rights to the Indian cricket team for the next five years, but has since shown its continuing enthusiasm for sport in the country by becoming the title sponsor of the Pro Kabaddi League in a five-year deal worth Rs3 billion.
However, the Fifa deal is on a different level and reflects the company’s desire to be regarded as a global brand.
Gao claimed that the federation had first approached Vivo three or four years ago when the company was not ready, but that circumstances had now changed.
He said: “Vivo is such a new brand. It only registered in 2010 and started supplying in 2012. They are now in the top three [in the mobile sector] in China and in the top five in the world.”
The subsequent negotiations with Fifa were more successful, with Gao saying: “Vivo was very interested because they have been doing very well in China, but it was time to go to the international market.
“Fifa is a very influential property and football is the most popular game in the world. Vivo is already the official marketing partner of the NBA in China and in India it sponsors the IPL and kabaddi, but they only serve regional marketing objectives and football is such a unique marketing language that you can promote around the world.”
He added: “They already have plans to go into the Middle East, Africa, eastern Europe and Latin America and want to go into North America and western Europe in the future.”
In recent years, Fifa has struggled to attract new sponsors, in large part because of various corruption scandals.
However, Vivo is the third Chinese brand to become involved with the World Cup since the start of last year, joining property and entertainment giant Wanda Group and consumer electronics firm Hisense.
Gao insisted the company had been reassured by the changes at Fifa under Gianni Infantino since he replaced the banned and disgraced Sepp Blatter as president of Fifa in February 2016.
Gao said: “Their mission is to promote the game of football... and Vivo is very trustworthy of the new leadership.”