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Guest Times: Cricket’s dilemma for marketers

Ganapathy Viswanathan says that given the poor performances of the current crop of Indian cricketers, marketers should think twice before signing a cricketer in the near future

Mumbai | August 27, 2014

V Ganapathy V Ganapathy

Cricket and Bollywood are seen as religion in our country. But cricket has taken some beating recently with the Indian cricket team and our cricketers having performed miserably in the just concluded Test series in England. While there is some hope of reviving the lost glory through the ODI matches, one is not sure how much of that will be restored. Public memory is so notoriously short that a good win in the now ongoing ODI series in England will make the Indian audience forget the Test debacle. But MS Dhoni’s team has to do something different to restore their standing and also maintain their equity as well as the equity of the brands which have longstanding endorsement deals with many of the cricket stars.

Here are some reasons that should make marketers think twice before signing a cricketer in the near future.

  1. Using cricketers is not a safe bet any more: In India brands depend a lot on cricket to promote their products. But there has been a paradigm shift as we don’t have players of the calibre of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly who bought a lot of trust and robustness in the brands they endorsed. With the erratic performance in the recent past, especially on overseas tours, marketers will now act with a lot of caution. May be one of the things they will do is only to sign very short-term contracts.  Another way could be to link endorsement fees with a performance rating or devise a matrix so that cricketers are made accountable.
  1. Bollywood and new sports are the marketer’s new choice: A beginning in this direction has already started with badminton and it is high time we explore new sports. Look at the way the Pro-Kabaddi has taken off! And there are many such games that have potential. This might also give way to brands going in for cine stars for endorsements. We may see fresh faces from Bollywood and television knocking the doors for endorsements. Marketers will also try to renegotiate the price with the existing cricketers so that the return on investment is justified. And if there is further dip in the cricket performance, many brands will pull out their ads like Pepsi had done a few years back.
  1. 3.      Pressure on media budgets: If you have a strong brand idea for your campaign, chances are you will not go with the celebrity route.  Using a brand ambassador is quick and easy way to reach the audience but with frequent failure of our cricketers, clients have to revisit their drawing board. Clients will keep many agencies on their toes to come out with sticky ideas to replace the cricketers and still get the desired mileage. They may even review media budgets on mass media and explore alternate media to push their brands and by using the savings generated from brand endorsement by cricketers.


  1. 4.      Marketers will look beyond cricket: First thinking in a marketer’s mind would be ‘Can I divert the money spent on brand endorsement using cricketers more meaningfully? He will have several options starting from pumping more money in the relevant media to using digital or activation to generate great brand experience to its audience. Also, marketers will now open up to new ideas as they have to address a great challenge to replace the cricketers. It’s time that marketers also learn new ways of reaching audiences other than using cricketers. We could find a huge dip in the spends on cricket channels also if our cricketers’ performances nosedive further.


Finally while cricket is still in the DNA of our audience but one is not sure of spending huge money and patronizing them. Simply because our cricket bench for the future is not hot and promising and the current crop of cricketers need to deliver and earn their endorsement fees.

(Ganapathy Viswanathan is an independent communication consultant.)


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