IPL: Royal Challengers Bangalore and brand Virat Kohli

Royal Challengers Bangalore's team fans cheer before the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Lucknow Super Giants at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on April 10, 2023. (Photo by Manjunath KIRAN / AFP) (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Royal Challengers Bangalore's team fans cheer their team during the 2023 IPL. Photo: Getty Images (MANJUNATH KIRAN via Getty Images)

For all their star-studded player status and financial muscle — as the second most expensive franchise in 2008 when the nascent India Premier League (IPL) was conceived — Royal Challengers Bangalore are still searching for the first title in the world’s richest T20 league.

The Bangalore franchise has made three final appearances in the IPL, in 2009, 2011, and 2016, while the foundation of RCB’s fanbase and its brand value has undoubtedly been focused on Virat Kohli, who has loyally remained with the team since 2008.

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Along with India’s star attraction, RCB have employed the likes of AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle over the years, but have been unable to equate a top heavy outlook and their huge following to title success.

Star players

Virat Kohli India

RCB secured their prized asset when Delhi Daredevils turned down India’s then under-19 World Cup-winning captain in 2008. Under his eight-year tenure as captain, RCB’s best finish was second in 2016. Yet, he remains the best deal RCB have inked — not to mention nearing 7,000 IPL runs on the pitch — with the franchise owners pinning their business brand around Kohli.

Royal Challengers Bangalore batter Glenn Maxwell plays a shot during the IPL 2023 cricket match between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, May 14, 2023.. (Photo by Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Royal Challengers Bangalore batter Glenn Maxwell hits out against Rajasthann. Photo: Getty Images (NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Glenn Maxwell Australia

Purchased for around circa $1.95m ($1.56m) in 2021, the Victorian is one of the most destructive batsmen in T20, as well as being an exceptional fielder who can also contribute with his off-spin. A key asset.

Behind the RCB brand

The Bangalore franchise was first bought by Vijay Mallya, then chairman of Kingfisher Airlines and United Spirits (UNITDSPR.BO) for $111.6m, until the beleaguered businessman defaulted on loans in 2016.

RCB is still owned by India's largest distiller United Spirits, controlled by British drinks giant Diageo (DEO), despite reports in 2015 stating that the franchise could be sold. But, having kept the IPL team as part of the takeover package when Mallya exited, they are now one of the most profitable IPL brands.

Watch: Vijay Mallya declared bankrupt by UK high court

During the 2023 edition, Kohli joked in an interview that if the IPL was won on social media, RCB would have won it with ease.

“It gives you an idea of the reach of the team,” says Manuja Veerappa, who covers RCB for the Times of India. “They take brand RCB very seriously in terms of the way the team is handled and they bank a lot on the marketing strategy.”

What’s more, the owners are only focused on growing their India IPL teams — as part of Diageo’s equality stance they saw off eight other bidders for the Bengaluru franchise in the women’s IPL — rather than invest in the Caribbean, South Africa or US T20 leagues.

While other franchises are owned by Indian companies and conglomerates, RCB is a business house with a global presence which has investments in sports in India only. “They know how to leverage it,” adds Veerappa.

MUMBAI, MAHARASHTRA, INDIA - 2023/05/08: Indian Premiere League (IPL) cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) player, Virat Kohli speaks during the meet and greet event in Mumbai. Fans were gifted autographed memento by the players who attended the event in the city. (Photo by Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
RCB's Virat Kohli speaks during a meet and greet event in Mumbai. Photo: Getty Images (SOPA Images via Getty Images)

Further, United Spirits retaining Kohli year-on-year has also been a major factor in their off-field success.

“For 16 years, they have pitched the loyalty factor,” adds an IPL insider. “Virat Kohli loyalty translates into a better brand value for them.”

The money spinners

With a brand valuation of $1.025bn and revenue at $36.4m, RCB are also a franchise in demand and it shows no sign of abating.

Businessman Vijay Mallya (L), co-owner of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, speaks as Lalit Modi of the Indian Premier League looks on during the press conference minutes after the end of the Indian Premier League player auction at the Fort Aguada in Goa on February 6, 2009.  Bangalore Royal Challengers purchased England's Kevin Pietersen for a record 1.55 million dollars and New Zealand Jesse Ryder for 160,000 dollars.  England's Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff joined the Indian Premier League as its most expensive players after being sold for 1.55 million dollars each at auction, beating the existing record of India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was purchased by the Chennai franchise for 1.50 million dollars last year.  AFP PHOTO/ STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Vijay Mallya, former co-owner of the Bangalore Royal Challengers, speaks as Lalit Modi of the Indian Premier League looks on after the 2009 auction. Photo: Getty Images (STR via Getty Images)

Qatar Airways inked a $9.1m multi-year deal — the second largest ever for an IPL team — ahead of the 2023 edition, while the franchise’s home venue, the 40,000 capacity M Chinnaswamy Stadium, is usually a packed affair. Tickets at their Bangalore base are the most expensive sold across India.

Despite their strong business outlook, RCB lost out on Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Cameron Green and Ben Stokes in the IPL auction for the 2023 edition.

Did you know…

  • When RCB finished second in 2016, captain Kohli blasted 973 runs and four hundreds in the campaign — the most runs for a batsman in a single IPL season

  • Off just 66 balls, including 17 sixes, RCB’s Chris Gayle racked up 175 in 2013 as the franchise posted a record 263/5 off 20 overs

Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Chris Gayle (R) hugs teammate Virat Kohli after the end of their innings during the IPL Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi on May 17, 2012.      RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. MOBILE USE WITHIN NEWS PACKAGE. AFP PHOTO/ MANAN VATSYAYANA          (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/GettyImages)
Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Chris Gayle hugs teammate Virat Kohli in 2012. Photo: GettyImages (MANAN VATSYAYANA via Getty Images)
  • RCB also hold the record for the lowest total in IPL history, which came against Kolkata Knight Riders in 2017 and a paltry 49 inside 10 overs

  • The 2023 edition has seen some hefty run rates accumulated. But RCB, with an average of 9.62 per over in the 2016 season, still lead the way

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What they say

“Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. The nation can grow if there is gender parity and advancing woman’s equity can add to economic growth.” Prathmesh Mishra, Diageo India COO and RCB chairman, on adding a women's IPL team

"Our social media performance is miles ahead of everyone. Get a trophy there, then watch. You bring one social media trophy and see how RCB will win. No competition only. Two weeks into the tournament, we will win. Don't need to play the last few games; 4-5 enough.” Virat Kohli

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