Cricket ball

Photo credit: Unsplash / Alessandro Bogliari

Cricket, with origins in England over 400 years ago, is now the second most popular sport in the world just after football (or soccer, depending on where you live!), with a staggering 2.5 billion fans globally and participation across 104 countries.

 In this article, we will explore how cricket dominates the sports business in India, what is driving the increase in female representation in cricket, how sports technology continues to transform cricket and increase global exposure, and what are the future opportunities in the sport.

Cricket dominates India’s sports business market

India and China are the two largest sports ecosystems in Asia. India’s sports industry is also one of the fastest-growing and is far above the world average of 5% annual growth rate across the entire global sports industry during the last five years.  

 The Indian sports industry saw explosive growth of 62% from 2020-2021 and is valued at US$1.29Billion as of 2021. Over 93% of the revenue was from media spend and sponsorship!

India sports industry revenue 2021

In India, Cricket transcends sport and plays a huge role in popular culture.  As a result, cricket accounted for a whopping 88% share of the Indian sports industry in 2021 according to Group M. This has propelled the Indian Premier League (IPL), launched in 2008, to become not only the richest cricket league but also the 6th most valuable sports league in the world.

Interestingly, the pandemic did not seem to harm the IPL’s valuation as much as other sports leagues. Although its brand value dropped 22% to US$4.4billion in 2020, it has since risen by 7% and reached US$4.7 billion in 2021 according to Brand Finance.  What is remarkable is that this recovery took place while the IPL shifted the entire season to Dubai and after a 4-month delay.

Commercial revenues have continued to grow exponentially. Major Indian conglomerate Tata paid US$45 Million for the IPL’s league naming rights this season (up from just US$5 Million paid by Real Estate firm DLF in IPL’s first season in 2008).  Total IPL sponsorship revenue topped US$105 Million in 2021 and key sponsors this season include Dream11, Unacademy, Cred, Upstox, Swiggy,  Rupay, Aramco, Paytm, and Ceat. 

 Team valuations recently surpassed an important milestone in 2021 with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), one of the IPL’s most successful teams, becoming India’s very first sports unicorn with a US$1 Billion market capitalization. Investors have woken up to the market potential with CVC Capital Partners becoming the first PE firm to own a Cricket team in India after bidding US$750 million for a new IPL franchise team. The firm has previously made sports investments including MotoGP brand Dorna, Formula 1, the UK’s Premiership, and La Liga. Major Indian conglomerate RPSG Group went further with a successful bid of US$945M for a new team. 

The IPL is also the world’s most-viewed cricket tournament with up to 405 million viewers and amassing 400 billion viewing minutes in 2020, which was almost 9.5 times higher than the record held by the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. The adoption of the league/franchise model in cricket is transforming the sport itself as well as Asia’s sports ecosystem, as it is not as common in Asia compared to North America. With the growing popularity and viewership driving media rights and sponsorship values of the IPL, the league is creating more opportunities for companies and investors to monetize opportunities with cricket in Asia. 

IPL Teams Value

The increasing value of Women’s Cricket 

 In March 2020, 86,000 fans packed the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the final of the Women’s T20 World Cup.

As we have previously mentioned, women are a key driver of growth across all sectors of the global sports ecosystem and cricket is a great example of this. With cricket’s determination to advocate Diversity & Inclusion, we are seeing increasing female representation and participation in the sport. According to a survey conducted by the ICC,  68% of crickets fans are interested in women’s cricket, 65% show an inclination towards the women’s World Cup and 70% want to see more live coverage of women’s cricket. 

The first Women’s World Cup in 1973 had only seven teams participating, but many countries have developed their women’s cricket program and teams since then.  More international competitions such as the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 currently taking place in New Zealand and the coming debut of Women’s Cricket at the 2022 Commonwealth Games are building momentum towards creating franchise leagues for women in the future. 

In a discussion with AST, Jonathan Cummings, Director of Cricket Hong Kong, highlighted that Cricket has both innovation and inclusivity at its heart:

“Format innovation has long been a feature of cricket, more so than in many sports. We’re seeing continual innovation in format strategy with new formats like T10 and The Hundred. Hong Kong in particular was at the center of this for decades, hosting the All-Rounders Challenge in the 1980s and then the World Sixes for many years. 

Importantly, format innovation drives advances in inclusivity. A great example is the FairBreak T20 tournament in partnership with Cricket Hong Kong. The event in May this year will bring together top women cricketers from over 30 countries, by far the broadest representation ever seen in a single tournament.”

 With increasing female representation and the ever-growing marketability of female cricketers, interest and investment in women’s cricket are set to grow.

Powering growth for the billion-dollar fantasy sports market

 We have previously talked about how fantasy sports is one of the key growth drivers in Asia’s sports ecosystem. In India, the number of companies has grown from less than 10 in 2016 to over 140 today. 

A study by FIFS & KPMG India shows that in India, over 77% of fantasy sports users prefer cricket while 48% of them prefer football. The social gamification engine behind fantasy sports apps are becoming increasingly important in capturing tech-native Gen Z and millennial fans, with 60% of fantasy sports users watching more sports than before. 

According to a FIFS-Deloitte Report, the market size in India is projected to grow from US$4.55 Billion in 2021 to US$21.79 Billion by FY25 at a 38% CAGR. There are at least 130 million fantasy sports users in India, with Cricket contributing 85% of revenue generated, and powering the growth of the fantasy sports and play-to-earn market in the country and the rest of Asia. 

Fantasy sports market India

Vikrant Mudaliar, Chief Marketing Officer of Dream Sports (Dream11), the market leader in India with 120 million+ registered users and the biggest fantasy sports platform in the world, told AST: 

“When people participate in fantasy sports, they tend to watch more sports matches across categories to track the performance of the players they picked in their fantasy sports team/s; which not only makes their experience far more interactive than before but also helps grow the entire sports ecosystem” 

The rapid growth of cricket and the IPL coupled with favorable factors including a large devoted fan base, high mobile usage, 5G adoption, a sophisticated digital infrastructure, and gaming ecosystem is creating opportunities for investors in the region to monetize on the Asian fantasy sports market. 

Leveraging tech in cricket 

India is now a sports tech superpower, with three sports tech unicorns emerging in 2021 alone compared to two in China. Like any other sport, technology has transformed cricket at all levels, but a lesser-known fact is that cricket is one of the earliest adopters of sports technology with broadcast innovations like Hawkeye, Spidercam and Batcam. 

Smart sensors, tracking and analytics enable coaches and players to enhance training as well as to maximize wins during the game while bringing fans closer to the action.

AST spoke to Madan Rajagopal, Founder & CEO of ludimos, an AI-powered video analysis platform enabling personalized and smart player development through broadcast level analytics:

“The era of data is here to change cricket for good. The game of cricket has evolved at the highest levels with cutting-edge innovations but somehow it failed to trickle down to the grassroots level, leaving a huge gap. With Deep Learning and Computer Vision technologies evolving at a rapid pace, it will be possible for every aspiring cricketer to have access to the same tech used by PRO cricketers.”  

Michael Kasprowicz, former Australian international cricketer & Co-Founder of sportcor, creators of the world’s first smart cricket ball that generates real-time data to empower and engage both players and fans, added that:

“We now have a combination of Hawkeye technology, heat sensors and ball tracking that enables a new level of improved umpires’ decision making while bringing viewers closest to the action. Sport science and tech have also introduced a new level of performance management, workload and injury management enabling teams to develop players and maximize a pathway timeline.” Kasprowicz said.

As a majority of cricket fans and audiences today are digital natives, it is important to create interactive and immersive content to build fan engagement experiences and grow viewership on TV, on mobile, and in the stadium. 

What next for cricket?

The market is expected to grow outside South Asia, with new leagues established in recent years such as the European Cricket League, along with the upcoming Major League Cricket (USA) Euro T20 Slam, Mzansi Super league (South Africa) and many more.

The continuous growth in cricket and the IPL is creating a ripple effect and accelerating opportunities in the overall sports ecosystem in Asia including sports tech, sporting equipment, apparel, fantasy sports, media, entertainment, etc. NFTs are also entering the cricket space. Recently, cricket NFT marketplace FanCraze raised US$100 million while Dream Capital is also in talks to invest $100 million in Rario. Now with web 3.0 and Metaverse, tech will further unlock more possibilities of how cricket is being played, viewed, and consumed. 

The business potential is massive but the key is how investors and companies can strategically capture opportunities and create value. There are many possibilities in the cricket business and the Indian Subcontinent that are yet to be explored.

Connect with us to find out more!


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