Tuesday, June 10, 2008

IPL Cricket and Indian Sports Marketing Dynamics

Geography is History

By Harish Bijoor

Geography is history!

The IPL team brand is a reality today. Even as the bidding for the City Teams is done with and just as the top 80 cricketers are picked up in an open auction with open and overt commercial intent by a Preity Zinta or a Dr. Vijay Mallya, it is time to sit up and shake the paradigm of geography and its old value. At least in cricketing terms.

Cricket history is an old and valued one. If Hinduism has its Bhagvad Gita, Christianity its Bible and Islam its Koran, Cricket has its own as well with an ever-growing Wisden. But then, that’s old hat now!

A trace of the history of evolution of cricket then?

Kerry Packer saw it first. The audience for 5-day cricket with its men in whites was getting to be tiresome. Cricket refused to change its avatar. Packer came in with his revolutionary one-day format. In came cricket with colored uniforms and just 50-overs each. This was instant cricket. A game that wrapped up its results in just one day of each team playing fifty-overs.

The game prospered. The game grew. Sponsorship grew. Brands that sought quicker eye-ball impact picked the game with vigor. Now there was Cricket Classic (the five day version played by men in whites) and Instant Cricket (the 50-over variety with its adrenaline rush for the younger man). In many ways, if you were older and if you had a heart problem, you better watch 5-day cricket. If you were younger, there was One-day cricket around for you. And then of course there were cusp cricket fans who watched both the variants. There was just more cricket to eat than before, and no one complained. Except for parents of kids with exams to write, who just kept complaining that this was just not cricket.

In came the years of the 2000 series. Cricket administrators and those concerned with Cricket –commerce (many interested only in terms of audience reach and the ability to monetize this value in terms of advertising) were thinking fast and quick. The contemporary audience was tiring of one-day cricket as well. Lives were getting fast-paced. People just did not have enough time to sit and watch a One-day game that somehow seemed slower than the life-styles of most of the audience that was watching it.

The game changed. In came Twenty-20. A shorter game. A sexier version. A version that promised to compete with the 90-minute joy of the world’s biggest viewed game of them all, Soccer.

With history wrapped up, time to talk the paradigm of Geography.

In sheer brand terms, cricket is a game that has traditionally depended on the jingoism of nations at the International level. In some cases the jingoism of States and Regions even, just as the Ranjhi Trophy matches sought so desperately to build in the country. In vain of course!

The IPL is different. This nascent brand of wannabe cricket wants to develop a whole new paradigm of consumer acceptance altogether. The key proposition: build Team-brand loyalty rather than just plain old National-brand or State-brand loyalty.

How is this done? How long will it take? And what are the key hurdles to cross? And importantly, can it be done at all?

Last question first. Can it be done at all?

Most certainly yes. Peek keenly at soccer and the emergence of the mega-buck teams that represent a passion of their own. Are you an Arsenal fan? Or a Man-U maniac? And is the Manchester United much more of a movement than national football altogether? And what about the eye-balls that track the game? Do they follow Team-sport more than National Soccer? And which one is a weekly passion? And which one attracts the biggest bucks?

The answer is blowing in the winds my dear friends. Team soccer is bigger than it all. Team sport is more profitable than it all. More eye-balls, more frequent eye-balls, and indeed more eye-balls to monetize literally every week. More eye-balls and indeed every other body part of the fan to monetize, not only in playing season, but in slack time as well. Every ball, every T-shirt and every wrist band is an opportunity that packs money.

My definition of a brand: The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people’s minds. The Team Bangalore of Vijay Mallya is a thought. A thought that will live in every mind. This thought is not only about soccer. It is about more. It is about a city. It is about the passion that Bangalore evokes in every heart, body and soul that lives in Bangalore. Add to it the heart, body, soul and every other sundry body part that thinks positively of Bangalore but does not live there. To that extent, this Team-branding of cricket provides the opportunity to harvest the passion of every cricket enthusiast who lives in Bangalore

The brand is today essentially consumed not by geographic clusters. Not even by consumers who live in common and identified Demographic clusters. The brand is today a Psychographic reality. Never mind where you live, you will consume Team Bengaluru. The moment you consume the brand and enjoy a passion-link into it, you are saying it out loud that you live out there with your mind rather than your body. Team cricket provides for this key insight to be harvested.

Building this new paradigm of Team Cricket will take time. It will not happen overnight. But then cricket and its administrators have all the time on their hands. It is the early entrants to the game who will singe their hands and minds and pockets. They will then wait and build. Build with every season. Build with every marketing tool of viral connect there is to use.

In sum, let’s lump it if not like it. Team Brand cricket is here to stay. The moneys in it are just too big to ignore. Marketers and owners of teams will harvest passion for the game, passion for the city and indeed passion for the individual cricket star over a period of time. Give it six years time, and you will watch nothing else but a Big Sunday game of Bengaluru versus Jaipuru! Maybe even a Jaipuru versus a Mysooru game in the future! What say?

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

9 comments:

Piuesh Jain said...

well....why not? It is damn possible to see a mysore vs. jaipur match as a Big Sunday sporting event.....infact was watching the live match between India and Pakistan today and the 50over format, to me seems to have become boring suddenly. As a matter of fact, if international players stop commuting their national duty in order to play in the lucrative 20 over format would be a no surprise to me in the future!!

Piuesh Daga

Oza said...

Sir,
I am an undergraduate student currently in the third and final year of
my management course, Bachelor of Management Studies(BMS). I came
across the post " IPL Cricket and Indian Sports Marketing Dynamics",
in your blog. I have undertaken a project on Sports Marketing as a
part of my TYBMS course work. I require some guidance as i am finding
it difficult to define the scope of the project. I have been keeping a
track of articles related to IPL, football and other sports that
appear in the newspapers and have also done some research on the net,
however i am still unable to understand as to exactly what all aspects
should i cover under the title sports marketing. As of now, my
understanding of what sports marketing is, is quite limited. I request
you to throw some light upon this matter, by helping me understand or
sort of define what sports marketing is. I would also need some
guidance going forward, but as of now it would be really appreciated
if you could enable me to have a broad understanding of what sports
marketing is.

I have also sent you a corresponding e-mail. Please reply to it, or reply by posting a comment regarding this on any of my posts in my blog, as per your convenience.

Expecting a reply soon, and sorry for the inconvenience caused.

Vaava said...

I am inspired by the article. Analysing anything and everything where money is involved, it could be traced to the company's branding initiative. Trust me, I just anyalysed this 20 - twenty format as a mere act for sponsorship. But a deep thought and research on the history of cricket has helped me to understand how amoebic branding really works.

We would be greatly interested to read many more of such case studies from your blog sir.

Regards,
Sindhu Rajasekharan

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