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Sports Broadcasting Goes To The Web – And Sponsors Follow

Even Cricket fans don't understand how to keep score.
Even Cricket fans don't understand how to keep score.

Earlier this summer YouTube broadcast the Indian Premier League’s 60 matches live around the world and the viewership was impressive, but the list of sponsors was even more amazing. The IPL is basically the XFL of cricket – it’s a three-year old league that has implemented some new rules and measures to help make the game faster, flashier and more appealing to a younger audience.

Google India, the local proprietors of YouTube, did the deal with the IPL to take on their digital broadcast rights and aired this season’s matches live to 50 million fans in all parts of the globe. Google then struck deals with 7 different brand sponsors, including Coca-Cola and HP, from India, England and the US.

From the Project Franchise perspective, it’s great to see the further merging of sports and digital and that its becoming easier for sports fans to get access to their teams from anywhere and at anytime. However, the part that has us most excited is that the sponsors have begun following suit and spending real money to reach that online audience of fans.

ESPN has been a leader in the US of digital media, first online and now in mobile, where fans now have options to watch games basically all the time. They’ve done a good job of getting brand sponsors to help foot the bill for the new medium, but most of those deals have been done as part of a “360 buy” – meaning if Budweiser was already sponsoring the TV broadcast of a game, the ESPN team would just package in the online and mobile components.

This is why the YouTube success is particularly refreshing, because they did this as a standalone digital offering and not as part of a more traditional sponsorship program. It’s a great sign for companies like Project Franchise and SB Nation who are rooted in digital and need the support of sponsors to continue help to improve the quality of life for sports fans everywhere.