Friday, June 19, 2009

IPL to ICC in just 20 seconds!

Companies should go over advertising and marketing strategies given the situations the various T20 tournaments throw up, be it broadcast timing or duration of the match..

The IPL has been done and dusted. The Deccan Chargers have just won the extravagantly designed trophy that is another testimony to the IPL’s opulence. Even before the celebrations ended and the hangover subsided cricket teams are fighting anoth er T20 tournament, this time for the World Cup! (Unfortunately for India, it is out of contention, having crashed out in the Super Eights stage.)

Today cricket matches and tournaments are a process, not an event, as they follow each other like waves from the ocean. No one but the players and the spectators seem tired, as the marketers seem to be busy working out promotional schemes by the dozen and ad agencies seem to be producing hundreds of television commercials which seem quite similar to each other. All too often one ends up watching the same boring commercial 17 times on the same day!
If some media reports are to be believed the T20 World Cup is a sell-out for ESPN Star and prices are at least 20 per cent higher than the pricing of the IPL. Of course, there are different sets of sponsors for both these programmes. As we are not involved as advertisers or sponsors, but merely as consumers of advertising who are gifted with 20-20 hindsight, even if some of us are constrained to wear spectacles in real life, we are free to air our views on advertising, cricket, life after IPL, brands … in fact, anything that the editor of this august newspaper permits!

What’s the time, yaar?

I am a diehard cricket fan and watch most games ball by ball and then religiously watch the highlights and the Extra Innings and the Fourth Umpire and the Stumped and every other boring cricket-related programme that comes on air. Yet we are a dying breed and even the most ardent of us are having trouble staying awake at 1 a.m. to watch the epic struggle between India and Ireland. We are getting into trouble with our bosses in the recessionary times that we live in, as our bosses, sadly, seem to have lost their interest in cricket and in the bargain, their sense of humour as well. But seriously, the timing of the matches is an issue and while advertisers are putting up a brave face, I am not sure how good the viewership is likely to be for matches which start at 10 p.m. Thankfully, the saas-bahu serials and the Anandams of the world will continue jerking tears from avid viewers as there will be no clash of interest.

Contrast this with the IPL which had brilliant timings from the Indian viewer’s point of view. Oh, what a time we had! We could have a few drinks in readiness, get sozzled during the match and end up cheering the opposing team and would read the next day’s papers to see who the real winner was! One must hand it to Lalit Modi for his time management. I am sure next time he would make the teams play at 6 a.m. in some remote part of the world, just to ensure that Indians like you and me get to watch our favourite players in the comfort of our living rooms, with our glasses in hand.

Timing was the problem which the World Cup faced in 2007 as the matches were played at crazy times (for us at least) in front of empty stadiums and a smattering of unhappy Indians who could not manage to cancel their flights or sell their tickets!
We all know that the viewership in India is directly proportionate to the team’s performance. How many of us watched the engrossing one-run victory of South Africa over New Zealand? Not too many in India, I suspect. Large numbers of Indians will only watch India games if they are held late at night. So my first prediction is that for most of the tournament the TRPs will not deliver the numbers or the economics that media planners want.

Well, in any case, T20 is a lottery as any Australian supporter will tell you, even as the Australian team goes into hiding at Leicester after an ignominious exit. One just hopes that it does not turn out to be a lottery for the advertisers who have spent crores on it!

Do advertising types ever watch their own ads?

My crib is that bank managers never stand in the queue to collect cash on Saturday mornings, principals do not have to meet other principals for the admission of their children, cops never have to pay fines and agency creative guys for nationalised banks never experience their service!

But having said that, I really wish that the large advertisers and agencies would watch their commercials aired several times during a day’s play. In fact, I cordially invite them to my living room to watch the next match. They would writhe if they were to hear the comments and groans from my friends and family as the same commercials come on ad nauseam.
One such commercial that I have seen too often is that of Dhoni for Orient Fans. Mind you, I have several favourites (!), but as I have too few friends in advertising discretion shall be my operating philosophy. Incidentally Dhoni’s batting too seems as laboured as some of his commercials and he seems to be doing quite a few.

It is perhaps here that one should admire brands such as Vodafone, which, being one of the sponsors of the IPL, had the good sense to do 29, or was it 30, different versions for value-added services as they had bought substantial time during the tournament and did not want their viewers to be bored. Reliance Communication, which is the sponsor for the current T20 tournament, too has multiple executions with the handsome Hrithik Roshan (there, I have made my niece happy).

But I too have a Reliance mobile connection and have no clue as to what the commercials are saying, other than the fact that Hrithik is a nice guy who remembers his old friends including the light boy even if he is a bit old! But imagine if Reliance had had only one commercial!
This leads me to something that I feel strongly about. If the T20 calls for a different strategy and execution then how is it that the advertising agency is serving its own boring fare whether it is a K serial or a T20 game? If crores are being spent on the promotion, should at least millions not be spent on the creative product? Imagine running 30- and 40- second commercials in a match that lasts all of 40 overs! Come on guys, get creative! Shorter, edgier, more versions, not more of the same!

IPL, T20 or what is the way ahead?

The purists might refuse to accept the “hit and giggle’ as the way to go for the game, but there is no denying the fact that advertisers and marketers should have no doubts that the future of commercial cricket is here. Money is obviously not unlimited and brands continually have to make choices as to where they will park their funds. So where would I put my money if my brand were to be associated with cricket in some way, as quite a few brands have been? Make no mistake; the World Cup is a big event. But so far it has been a low-key affair if not a damp squib. Even the opening ceremony was dumped, courtesy the glorious English weather!

The crowds, I suspect, are still waiting by the sidelines for the Ashes to begin and the grounds are half full if not fully empty. After all, every Englishman and his brother-in-law know that the Ashes are going to change hands this summer, never mind what the form book says.
While national support can muster up the numbers, neutral games have very poor viewership in India, even if they are interesting. Many of the teams that have made it to the Super Eights are quite sad, to put it mildly, and even making allowance for the fact that T20 can cause upsets. A few of the games will make for poor viewing.

Contrast this with IPL with several close games and spectators forming alliances and rooting for teams even if they have foreigners in them.
The charm of T20 is close games, with each over likely to turn the game around on its head. I wonder how many close games the current World Cup will have? I just wonder.
I do know that this is a global event as 216 countries could be sharing the broadcast lead but then India is where most of the money is being spent. And a phenomenal number of eye balls are expected.

I think companies need to think through their future strategies as IPL is here to stay and gives much more flexibility for marketers and sponsors, as the ICC seems to be looking the other way whenever Lalit Modi does or says anything.
So what’s your pick? IPL or ICC? Or should we do an sms poll on Extra Innings?

P.S. Just to lend credence to my crib about ads in the T20, Maruti has this corporate ad which I am sure is a hastily done edit of earlier commercials. So there is a sequence where a boy has a placard saying “want to go home for Diwali”, never mind the fact that the ad is being shown in June.
Oh, well, Happy Diwali!

(Ramanujam Sridhar, is CEO, brand-comm, and the author of Googly-Branding on Indian Turf.)


Usha TS said...


The article is well written. Considering that it is from the author of 2 books, what more can I say!

Your points about factors for success of TV ads during the key cricket tournaments are valid. After all, it is the audience that makes the game

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes Usha you are right. But unfortunately tend to forget certain basic things and ignore important people to their cost!

Pavan Soni said...

Hi Sridhar,

Did go through it and found it well flowing and captivating. Also did read you book last night till 1 PM.

Is a easy flowing wisdom!

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Thanks Pavan, I am glad you liked it.

Radhika said...

Hi, Sridhar!

I am one of the small minority which did not watch neither the IPL or T20! I agree with you... I don't get the Hrithik Roshan commercial either... but one which I do like a lot and somehow never get bored of seeing is the utterly cute Parle Lite Bonbons commercial with the Sumo wrestlers... I remember the commercial and I actually want to try out the product :)
Great commercial!

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Thanks Radhika, Advertisers are trying all the time to get your attention and it works when people like you who are not avid TV watchers remember and recall the advertising.

Anand said...
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Harish said...

That was a topical and interesting piece. I liked your suggestion that more advertisers should go the multiple-version way (akin to the Vodafone ads), for combating viewers' resistance to repetitive ads.

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Yes, very few advertisers look at it from the viewer's point of view. This is perhaps why Vodafone is the exception.

Ramanujam Sridhar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anand said...


I read you article which is very well articulated.Thanks for your extended view on the same.

I am having a doubt which has been pestering my mind over some days. IPL as you say is here to stay . Considering the fact that Mr. Modi has come up with a proposition to have the IPL in two versions a year, One in India and the other in some other part of the world, Don't you feel that " The Bhooth" of boredom would creep into IPL mode of cricket as well? Won't people will start ignoring the other forms of cricket, after IPL would be introduced happening twice a year?( ODI's and Test, which many have started considering as boring, now itself)

Ramanujam Sridhar said...

Dear Anand,

There is a real risk that other forms of cricket could be affected particularly in India where test cricket is dropping interest and viewership. Two IPL's could actually mean an overkill. Administrators should not end up killing the golden goose.

Anonymous said...


My question has nothing to do with cricket:) I want to digress to eHarmony ads (in the US). People chanced upon TV ads and the it seems to have lead them to their souse/life partner. Now thats effective advertising i think? Appreciate your thoughts?