Pepsi is one brand that has swigged cricket to the last drop and some of their best TV commercials have been around the game that often captivates and yet frustrates. In 1996 when Coke was the official sponsor of the World Cup, Pepsi who had lost the bid (if my memory is to be believed) did a guerilla marketing campaign and came up with the campaign “nothing official about it” featuring the likes of a (then) baby faced Sachin Tendulkar, the dashing Vinod Kambli (where on earth is he), the West Indian fast bowler and captain Courtney Walsh, the English speedster Dominic Cork and the legendary umpire Dickie Bird. This was a landmark campaign and people still remember it. See advertising actually works!! In ‘99 when the World Cup was held in England, Pepsi was the official sponsor despite all their previous cracks at the status! But then all is fair in sponsorships and cricket right? Let’s move on to the present World Cup and the current lot of Pepsi commercials. Incidentally do you like them?
Cricket in the air
I think there has been a significant change in the way the game is viewed today in India. It has captivated our attention and with the media getting on to the game and scams in that order, there is hardly any scope for anyone to say “yeh dil mange more”. Cricket seems to be coming out of our ears and even housewives seem to be familiar with the nuances of the game - thanks to T20 and the IPL. It is this passion and the familiarity with cricketing jargon (?) that is behind the latest Pepsi World Cup campaign featuring cricketers and their ilk. In addition to the grotesque (to me at least) body painting commercials featuring at least one of our not so athletic cricketers, there is one featuring some of their trade mark shots and gestures which continues to get high visibility in the media and most certainly in the big screens on stadia that I am going to talk about.
Billy oh Billy!
How was Pepsi to know that Billy Bowden would be India’s favourite umpire? Let’s ignore the sarcasm and stay with Billy’s crooked finger that has been behind the agony of many famous cricket’s greats.
The commercial features Billy eating Indian food and having the temerity to ask for a spoon! Imagine the cheek of the man! The group sitting next to him speaks in a dialect way beyond my limited powers of comprehension, but the gestures tell the story and he is taught how to raise his finger. He learns reluctantly after tasting a Pepsi and promptly raises it in the ground. Of course lessons learnt under duress like these don’t stay with you as our ancient wisdom will tell you and when he had to raise his finger at Bangalore he didn’t to the patent glee of Ian Bell and complete annoyance of MS Dhoni who was thinking of anything but helicopter shots at that time and wondering if he should transport the erring umpire in a helicopter to New Zealand preferably to an earthquake affected area.
Dhoni’s own commercial featuring his own trademark “helicopter shot” is another in the series. It is interesting but perhaps I prefer the shot to the commercial, like a true cricket lover.
Then we have Veeru’s Upper Cut. This is a better film perhaps because it has a lively Ranbir Kapoor energizing a bemused cricketer who is wondering what all the fuss is about. But when the need presents itself he promptly executes an “Upper Cut”.
Then we have Dilshan who is arguably the most wooden of the lot when it comes to histrionic ability doing the “Pallu Scoop” for us (what a name!) and finally we have KP doing the “Switch Hit” practiced with water melons and fine tuned by Pepsi.
Bhajji may not be getting too many wickets right now but he too bowls a “doosra” for Pepsi. There is no denying the fact that these commercials (and I hope I haven’t missed any) are interesting, topical and even funny on occasion.
I love the fact that they have been created for the world cup and tickle the fancy of the cricket lover and intrigue the casual watcher of the game. Of course the commercials have all been conceptualized in earthy Hindi in some dialects that hardened tamilians like me don’t really understand, but who cares about people like me!!
So here is my question to you? Is your celebrity merely holding his bat or doing something which is unique, identifiable with him and your brand?
May the World Cup have more India wins and may Billy Bowden put his crooked finger up more often when India appeals!!
Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
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