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Cricketers’ performances raise questions about returns from brand endorsements

19-October-2004
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Cricketers’ performances raise questions about returns from brand endorsements

Sourav Ganguly for Pepsi, Sachin Tendulkar for Airtel, Rahul Dravid for Hutch, Virendra Sehwag for Coke, Kaif for Frito Lay…the list goes on. Almost every top-rung Indian cricketer endorses some brand or the other. Such is the situation that perhaps are cricketers are known better for the products they endorse than their sterling performances on the field. So far so good, but what happens when the Indian cricket team, known for its unpredictability, puts in one dismal performance after the other?

Remember the time in the not too distant past, when Team India put up one of its dismal performances, the SMS doing the rounds was: “We make one promise as Indians today. Not to buy any product which has Indian cricketers as models. Please pass this on to at least five friends.”

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that increasingly brand managers are becoming wary of roping in cricketers. Experts say that advertisers have put in over a whopping Rs 400 crore on cricket this year. If celebrity cricketers work as a detriment to the brand they are endorsing, then it is cause for worry among advertisers.

Says Shubhagato Bhattacharjee, Senior Manager, Client Servicing, AC Nielsen, ORG-MARG, “Though a brand is much more than one player, a star association helps in brand awareness and brand recall. But in a country like India where cricket is religion, when cricketers do not play well, the consumers express their ire on the brand.”

The prevalent sentiment triggered by poor performances is that cricketers are concentrating less on the game and more on making money. Some are even of the view that cricketers should pay a penalty for non-performance. Publicly though, marketers not yet willing to admit that poor performances by cricketers are impacting their brands.

“No, the performance of the Indian cricket team in no way affects the brand equity of Samsung. Cricketers are a loved set of people. The entire country adores them. Ups and downs are a part of any game. As a brand that celebrates cricket as well as Indianness, we at Samsung have full faith in our cricketers and will continue to support them,’’ said Vivek Prakash, Vice-President, Marketing, Samsung India Electronics Limited.

Salil Kapoor, Head of Marketing, LG India, feels that “even if there is a negative impact, it is very shortlived.” He says, “The advertisements are a long-term plan and one or two bad games, winning or losing, has a very temporary effect.”

But figures tell a different story. Ad rates for the ICC Championship, which started at an average of Rs1-1.25 lakh per 10 seconds, had gone down to Rs 50,000 later in the tournament. After Team India’s loss in the Holland Cup, the Asia Cup, the Natwest Sseries and the ICC tournament, the ad rates had fallen by as much as 50 per cent. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) which is said to be expecting an average of $60 million from telecast rights for the on going India-Australia Test series, should not get its hopes too high now.

The success quotient for any brand may sometimes depend on the success of the brand ambassador. If the brand ambassador, especially a cricketer, is not successful, then in the long run it affects the brand. Sulina Menon, CEO, Carat India, says that when a player consistently plays badly, then “there is a negative impact on the brand he is endorsing”.

Basabdutta Choudhuri, General Manager, Madison Delhi, agrees that with a celebrity, whether it is a cricketer or an actor, the risk element is always there. “The essential factor, however is, who the advertisers put their money on. If the cricketer has a bounce-back capacity, then the short-term fluctuation can be mediated,” she says.

For now, brands are standing by their ambassadors, but for how long?

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