Vivo 'to opt out of IPL title sponsorship this season'
Vivo, the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer, is set to withdraw as title sponsor of next month’s Indian Premier League, the high-profile T20 cricket tournament, amid political tensions between the two countries.
The Chinese brand has taken the decision after the Board of Control for Cricket faced a backlash in the country when it recently confirmed the company will continue to have naming rights to this year’s competition, according to ESPN.
In the wake of clashes in June between Indian and Chinese troops at the border between the two countries, there have been growing calls for Indian consumers to boycott Chinese products, and for Indian companies to adopt the same approach to Chinese investment and sponsorship.
Those calls intensified after the BCCI announced it was retaining Vivo as title sponsor for the 13th edition of the IPL.
Vivo has a five-year deal with the BCCI which runs to 2022 and is worth Rs4.4 billion per year ($58.6 million), a fourfold increase on what Vivo paid annually in its initial two-year deal from 2016 to 2018.
It is unclear how the company’s withdrawal for the upcoming tournament will affect the eight teams financially but ESPN reports that the IPL is yet to inform them of developments.
Each team is believed to receive around Rs200 million per year from the Vivo contract and the BCCI may look to maintain these payments by finding a short-term sponsor for next month’s tournament.
Vivo’s move is set to ease the pressure on the BCCI as political leaders, organisations, and traders’ unions alike had all criticised the body’s decision not to axe Vivo.
Omar Abdullah, leader of the National Conference political group in India, was among the first to hit out at the Indian cricket body.
He wrote on Twitter: “Chinese cellphone makers will continue as title sponsors of the IPL while people are told to boycott Chinese products. It is no wonder China is thumbing its nose at us when we are so confused about how to handle Chinese money/investment/sponsorship/advertising.
“The sheer suddenness of the move, the unexpected nature of the move, the unpredictability of the move. They do not know what hit them. Now the Chinese will know... what we always suspected that we really cannot manage without their sponsorship and advertising.”
Many users also took to Twitter to voice their displeasure at the BCCI with #BoycottIPL and #ChinesePremierLeague among the trends on the social media platform in the country.
The move did not come as a huge surprise as the BCCI had previously stated it had no immediate plans to replace the Chinese brand when the political tensions arose earlier this summer.
The body had also decided to retain all sponsors with Chinese links for the tournament which includes umpire partner Paytm, the Indian e-commerce company which has investments from industry powerhouse Alibaba, Dream 11, as online fantasy league partner, and Swiggy, as an associate sponsor - both of which have links to Chinese internet giant Tencent.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) reportedly wrote to senior members of the Minister of Home Affairs of India urging them to withhold permission for the IPL to take place in September if the sponsors were retained.
In the letter, Praveen Khandelwal, the CAIT national general secretary, had said the BCCI’s decision “smacks of its lust for money in utter disregard of safety of the people and that too involving Chinese companies.”
The BCCI has announced that this season’s IPL will be held in the United Arab Emirates between 19 September and 10 November. The switch to the Middle East state was expected because of ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic in India, and the matches will take place over 53 days in biosecure venues in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
The IPL was originally due to take place in India from March to May, but was delayed due to the pandemic, leaving the BCCI with a potential $534 million loss in revenue.
However, the postponement of this year’s Men's T20 World Cup in Australia, which was scheduled for 18 October to 15 November, opened up a new window for the competition,
The CAIT had requested the Minister of Home Affairs of India “take immediate cognisance of the issue and not give any permission to BCCI for holding IPL in India or in Dubai or anywhere else.”
The CAIT added that “adopting an escape route by BCCI to hold IPL in Dubai is nothing but to dodge the government.”