The Saudi Tourism Authority’s IPL partnership will raise destination awareness beyond Indian cricket

The Saudi Tourism Authority’s IPL partnership will raise destination awareness beyond Indian cricket

The IPL is not exactly averse to sponsorship. Since its first delivery in 2008, players have stepped out plastered with sponsors to score Yes Bank Maximums or be issued with the illustrious FBB Stylish Player of the day award. Everything about the spectacle is box office; the coaches are decorated veterans, the players are often international-regulars, and the stadiums usually reach full capacity.

The partnership will coincide with the opening of dedicated visa centres in India, increasing accessibility between the two countries and helping fulfil STA’s ambition for India to be a leading tourism source market by 2030. The deal may even garner the added benefit of diversifying crowds at IPL events. Breaking bread over one of India’s largest sporting and cultural exports while promoting a flow of tourism is conjunctionally astute partnership-building.

But in the IPL’s kaleidoscope of sponsors, none have been a government body of a foreign country. The Saudi Tourism Authority’s (STA) ground-breaking sponsorship is at the intersection of business, sport, and culture, with a two-sided flow of lucrative benefits. It adds to Saudi Aramco’s activities in IPL 2022, which included sponsoring the Orange and Purple Caps, worn by the top run-scorer and wicket-taker respectively.

Sharing similar demographic profiles with over half of the population in Saudi Arabia and India under the age of 30, STA are looking to further engage a highly competitive, high-viewership sports fanbase. Saudi Arabia are exactly twenty years into their membership to the ICC (International Cricket Council) and the country will look to develop its homegrown cricket ventures through this new, substantial involvement in the sport.

The deal was announced at a time of scrutiny for Saudi Arabia’s steamrolling sports investments. Last month, the football federations of 2023 Women’s World Cup hosts Australia and New Zealand complained to FIFA regarding Visit Saudi’s sponsorship of the event. At the time of writing, the deal appears to be faltering due to widespread public pressure. While STA’s deal with the IPL is inevitably embroiled in controversy – particularly concerning Prime Minister Modi’s divisive record with India’s Muslim community – it nonetheless stimulates a burgeoning cultural relationship and fosters genuine functional advantages.