The graft behind the glitz and glamour of the IPL By @Vitu_E
India’s T20 league offers much more besides the pinnacle of the game with opportunities to build a brand and doors opened to a billion-strong Indian market
Tymal Mills is in bed, dressed in his full Royal Challengers Bangalore kit. The Sussex quick is asleep and dreaming of bowling. His legs kick out a few times from under him before his right arm twitches, followed by his left arm coming around to complete the action. He goes through this routine a few times before someone mercifully yells “cut”.
“When you say it out loud, it’s ridiculous,” laughs Mills. “But that went out on TV in India during the IPL. It just shows you how marketable you are for that two-month period of time and what you can get up to.”
This advert for Durolfex Mattresses was one of many sponsor engagements Mills had to undertake in the 2017 IPL season. Arriving as Bangalore’s £1.4million signing, he was pencilled in to shoot commercials, shake hands, pose for photos and partake in Q&As on almost every day of the competition, often into the early hours of the morning. The graft behind the glitz of world cricket’s foremost T20 league.
Mills embraced it, though the feeling among most overseas players is usually one of annoyance. Some avoid them completely or use excuses such as niggling injuries to be elsewhere. Others have devised ways to ensure they do not drag on.
“If you can, go with an Indian international player to one of these appearances,” one overseas player at this edition of the IPL told The Independent. “The higher profile and grumpier the better. They generally rule the roost, so if something is not being done quickly enough, they make a complaint. Suddenly a two-hour shoot can get done in 30 minutes.”
However, over the last few years, a shift has taken hold. Now more than ever before domestic and foreign players are willing to embrace the extra duties. Some even request to do more. The goal is, well, fairly obvious: to harness the untold power of a billion-strong Indian market to raise your profile and build your brand.
“I wasn’t aware of it at the time,” says Mills. “But if I was to go back to the IPL again it’s something I’d definitely tap into. I think what the smartest people have done is used their time in the IPL to expand their profiles when they’re not at the IPL. Using their fame in India 12 months of the year, not just the two they are there.”
“Around 50 or 60 per cent of my followers are in India. For my company, Pace Journal, that shoots up to 80 per cent. That’s basically your market. So, if you’re looking for a sponsor, you’re more likely to find one in India. It wasn’t something put onto me there four years ago but I’d try and maximise it.”
Perhaps the best example of this is David Warner, the blitzing opening batsman who went from Australia’s attack dog to India’s next top vlogger. Since joining Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2014, Warner has maintained a steady orange footprint across his social media channels. This went up a gear at the start of the pandemic when he amassed 4.8 million followers on TikTok through videos of him dancing to Bollywood and South Indian songs with his family.