The BCCI, Dream11 and IPL’s Chinese connection

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The rising anti-China stance among Indian citizens was the primary reason that forced Vivo to quit as the title sponsor of this year’s edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The company’s exit forced the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to go  into panic mode and look for a new sponsor. The search finally came to an end on 18th Aug, when the fantasy sports platform Dream11 was announced as the new title sponsor. The brand’s proposal managed to outbid companies like Unacademy, Byju’s, Jio and Patanjali.

About Dream11

Dream11 is a fantasy sports platform from India that allows users to play fantasy cricket, hockey, football, kabaddi and basketball online. Last year in April, it became the first Indian gaming company to enter the elite ‘Unicorn Club.’ The company was founded in 2012 by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Sheth. Today, Dream11 is a commercial partner of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and has been associated with many international cricket tournaments like New Zealand’s Super Smash cricket tournament, and T10 Vincy Premier League.

Dream11’s Chinese connection

The road to IPL title sponsorship wasn’t smooth for Dream11 because the company had to fend off some strong anti-China sentiment because of its connection with Chinese technology company Tencent. But considering the fact that the BCCI risked so much by appointing them as the new sponsors, proves that Dream11 executives somehow managed to convince the BCCI about their ‘all-Indian identity’. 

Dream11 has Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings as one of its financial backers, and yet somehow the BCCI (and not the brand) is stressing on the fact that Dream11 is an Indian company. According to Moneycontrol, an anonymous source that was involved in the talks reveals that ‘Dream11 has been one of the official partners of BCCI for a while now and this IPL title sponsorship deal further strengthens the brand’s relationship with the game. The association will also help Dream11 boost fan engagement and this was one of the main factors.’ The company reiterates that Tencent’s investment in the company is in single digits only; however, according to Moneycontrol, the stake is said to be in the region of 20-25 percent. 

What is the sponsorship amount and duration?

The IPL Governing Council Chairman Brijesh Patel confirmed to The Indian Express that Dream11’s INR 222 crore sponsorship would be only valid for this edition of the tournament. He also said that the duration of the sponsorship is valid only until December 31st, 2020. Which means, if for any reason the tournament needs to be postponed or deferred beyond November 10th, Dream11 would remain as the title sponsor until the end of this year. Ultimately, what it means is that Dream11 is just a last-minute fix and next year maybe we will see a new title sponsor, and hopefully, a non-Chinese entity.

BCCI’s reaction to this outcome

The BCCI looks rather pleased with the developments considering the time to find a replacement for Vivo was short and the market is still reeling under the economic distress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. “In such a short time, we were able to secure an INR 200-plus crore deal. And since this bid is only valid for this edition of IPL, I think it’s a good bid,” said Brijesh Patel to The Indian Express. He further adds that ”Tencent is a minority stakeholder in Dream11. All employees, products and technology are Indian. There’s nothing foreign about Dream11.” Sounds self-contradictory if you ask us because Mr Patel admits that Tencent (a Chinese company) is a stakeholder and goes on to say in the same breath that there’s nothing foreign about Dream11.

The bottomline

This year’s IPL tournament is set to break all viewership records as the matches will be played in UAE, and behind closed doors without any spectators. Which means, people will be forced to watch all the games from within the confines of their homes. For Dream11, this means more advertisements, more reach, more TRP, and more money. A win-win situation for all parties involved.

What is disturbing though is the continuing trend that the BCCI will choose profits over national interest every single time. Dream11 sponsoring the IPL proves that India Inc is still not ready to give up on Chinese money. And at the end of the day, it’s only the ordinary citizens that are required to make sacrifices and prove their love for India by boycotting Chinese companies and products. Maybe it’s time someone reminded the BCCI the true meaning of “leading by example.”

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