After India’s fateful exit from the ICC World Cup this year, and BCCI’s recent announcement on its regulation on endorsements, brand identities that are based on the face of cricket cannot help but make advertisers and the media wonder what’s in store for them next.
Most media planners, however, feel that this is only a passing phase. World Cups, matches, film flops and failures are little roadblocks that do not last, for audience experiences are rather short-lived. While the BCCI ruling and the recent failure may affect cricket endorsements temporarily, planners feel that eventually, cricket as a potential for advertisers will continue to subsist.
Divya Radhakrishnan, Senior Vice President, The Media Edge, said that celebrity endorsements, which are not restricted to sports but to the field of entertainment at large, are not created solely on the basis of cricketers. “The World Cup is only an incident. Some other match will happen, there will be new team members later and things will change. It is the same with films; it is all extremely fluid. Failures are on-going processes and these things have only a temporary impact,” she said.
Radhakrishnan added that the concept of celebrity endorsement doesn’t change, while individual faces might. “It is about which celebrity face can be relevant, and not the entire concept of cricket that is lost,” she said.
She felt that the definition of a celebrity can be debatable. “Different celebrities can influence the masses on a geographical and social front. There are different ones at different places. Some alternatives to cricket endorsements are television characters, movie stars, characters from music items, etc. A good example is Coca Cola, which has multiple ambassadors and not just one,” she added.
Hiren Pandit, Managing Partner, GroupM ESP, said that although the current debate is specific to the Indian cricket team, thoughts are short-lived. “When Ganguly lost, he lost his popularity, and yet Pepsi used him. Now people think he should be the captain again. These popularities are extremely short-lived.”
Pandit, too, feels that cricket as a concept will remain as far as endorsements are concerned. “There has to be a certain value attached to the use of a celebrity for a particular brand, and it is important to know what the reason is for the celebrity to be chosen. One such incident cannot change anything, unless there is a consistence lack of popularity. For instance, although Juhi Chawla is not in movies anymore, her popularity is still very high.”
Manish Porwal from Starcom also agreed about the short-term aspect. “Because of the recent developments, some amount of endorsements will go down in the short or mid-term. However, if the BCCI regulation happens, then per-brand endorsement can go up. In the meanwhile, endorsements of industries like cinema will benefit from this. However, these are not things that will affect anything in the long-term.”
Nandini Dias of Lodestar feels that Bollywood celebrity endorsements are safer than cricket endorsements. “The equity of a Bollywood star does not alter drastically within months. For instance, when Abhishek Bachchan did not do well in comparison to Hrithik Roshan in ‘Dhoom 2’ and in a couple of other films later too, there was no hue and cry. But when India lost, Pepsi did not have a single commercial,” she said.
Dias is not in agreement with BCCI’s ruling. She added, “The life of a player in India lasts for a maximum of 10 years. In those 10 years, they have to make enough money for a lifetime. If cricket players are robbed off their remuneration by the imposition of restrictions, we will find cricket at the same level as other sports that are being neglected. Brand endorsements increase the aura around the cricketers.”