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Cricket - 19 Feb 2021
Vivo, the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer, is back in as title sponsor of this year’s Indian Premier League, the high-profile Twenty20 cricket tournament, after opting out of the 2020 edition due to political tensions between the two nations.
IPL chairman Brijesh Patel confirmed the news prior to yesterday's high-profile IPL player auction in Chennai, noting: “Vivo is back with us.”
It will replace Dream11, the Indian fantasy sports platform which was brought in for last year only - although reports at the time did state that if Vivo once more opted out of the 2021 edition, Dream11 would step in again.
However, this has not been necessary, and the expectations inside the Board of Control for Cricket in India have reportedly always been that Vivo’s absence was only ever going to be for one edition.
Vivo had originally signed up as the tournament’s title sponsor prior to the 2016 IPL, and then extended that deal after the 2017 edition in an arrangement meant to last for five years and worth $341 million in total, a fourfold increase on what the company had paid in its initial two-year deal.
However, in August last year, the mobile phone company took the decision to opt out of putting its name to the 2020 tournament (which was held in the UAE because of logistical restrictions in India regarding the coronavirus pandemic), in the wake of clashes between Indian and Chinese troops at the border between the two countries.
These clashes, and the ensuing political tension, led to calls for Indian consumers to boycott Chinese products, and for Indian companies to adopt the same approach to Chinese investment and sponsorship.
Although the BCCI initially stated it had no intention of replacing Vivo, and also said it would be keeping all sponsors with Chinese links for the tournament, Vivo eventually took the decision to step down itself as the furore on social media over Chinese involvement in the IPL grew.
Many users took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the BCCI, with #BoycottIPL and #ChinesePremierLeague among the trends on the social media platform in the country.
Dream11, which first became an IPL partner in 2018 and itself has links to Chinese internet giant Tencent, was quickly brought on board as the new title sponsor, bagging the rights with a bid of $29.7 million (half what Vivo had been paying annually), beating off rival bids from companies including Byju’s and Unacademy, two Indian online learning platforms, and the Tata conglomerate.
Under Vivo’s previous title sponsorship deal, each of the eight franchises was receiving $2.7 million from the arrangement per year - in total the teams receive 50 per cent of the title sponsorship payments - but it is unknown whether this new arrangement is on the same financial terms.
Reports last year said that if Vivo was to come back for the upcoming edition, it would be on a reduced contract.
The 2021 IPL is set to take place entirely in India, and is likely to run from the start of April through to the first weekend of June, although specific dates have not yet been confirmed.