Sports sponsorship in India increased 12% in 2018 while advertising on sports grew to Rs. 7,762 crores (US$1.14bn), up from Rs. 7,300 crores in 2017, a new industry report has revealed.

According to ESP Properties, the entertainment and sports division of GroupM, the overall level of growth for on-ground sponsorship came in at 20% last year, although cricket witnessed a “momentous upsurge” of 34%.

Central sponsorship amounted to more than Rs. 600 crores (US$88m+) in 2018, although the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise fee, worth about Rs. 291 crores, ceased to be valid last year, making year-on-year comparison “irrelevant”.

Meanwhile, the IPL team sponsorship tally grew to almost Rs. 300 crores (US$44m) for the first time ever after registering growth of 20%.

ESP Properties also said that 85% (Rs. 3,779 crores, US$556m) of all sports advertising expenditure was directed towards TV, with digital taking Rs. 475 crores (US$70m) and print receiving Rs. 178 crores (US$26m).

Significantly, digital spend increased 44% year-on-year, driven in part by the efforts of companies like Hotstar and Sony Liv to extend their coverage, particularly of the IPL.

But while cricket remains the dominant sport in India, ESP Properties found positive signs of growth for emerging sports, such as the Indian Super League football tournament.

Kabaddi, the contact sport played in several South Asian countries, also had a “good year” for on-ground sponsorship in 2018, after recording 31% year-on-year growth.

In addition, athlete brand endorsement value increased 22% last year, with cricket accounting for 81% of the Rs. 482 crores spent by brands on sports star acquisitions. Two cricketers alone, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, pulled in two-thirds (66%) of all athlete endorsement spend.

Commenting on the findings, Vinit Karnik, business head of ESP Properties, said: “2018 was a spectacular year for the business of sports and 2019 will be another power-packed year. There will be a significant rise in sports leagues and tournaments since IPL has inspired other sports leagues such as PKL, ISL and PBL.

“From the IPL team sponsorship seeing a growth of 20% for the first time ever to Kabaddi registering growth of 31%, factors like these have given sports sponsorship a boost. With IPL now and ICC Cricket World Cup coming up, we also expect sports celebrities to be the talk of the town, monopolising consumer attention and advertising money.”

Sourced from ESP Properties; additional content by WARC staff