NEW DELHI: Brands are holding back on committing themselves fully to this year's India Premier League cricket season as some games will be played outside India and controversy continues to surround the sport.

Betting scandals had threatened the participation of two teams until the Supreme Court cleared them to play, while it also removed the head of the BCCI, the sport's governing body in India, pending an inquiry into the allegations.

Rohit Gupta, president of network sales and licensing at Multi Screen Media (MSM), the IPL's official broadcaster, admitted that it had been difficult to close advertising deals but with the Court's decision he was confident these could now be concluded within a week. Major advertisers such as Vodafone have already confirmed their involvement.

Agencies expressed guarded optimism. "Brands this time are taking calculated risks and are cautious on IPL," Amin Lakhani, principal partner at Mindshare Fulcrum, told exchange4media."Cricket has a huge appetite in this country and one cannot rule out the tournament. Things move on once confidence is restored," he added.

Arshad Nizam, director at Alliance Advertising, concurred, observing that "brands which have considered IPL to be a great property will stay with the tournament this season as well".

But while he expected that to be the case for broadcast advertising, he thought the fact that several fixtures were taking place outside the country, because of an overlap with a general election, would have an impact on ground sponsorships, as brands would have limited opportunities to leverage their presence.

The team franchises themselves have found it increasingly difficult to attract sponsors and partners. "Just the name IPL does not work any more," a senior official at one said. "Conversions need to be done with more effort than they used to be earlier."

But some analysts have argued that the troubles that have engulfed the IPL could actually increase the number of viewers. "Controversy is the middle name of IPL," brand analyst Harish Bijoor told the Economic Times. "Therefore it further accentuates interest in IPL."

Data sourced from Economic Times, exchange4media; additional content by Warc staff