With the Government trying to clamp down on surrogate advertising, liquor companies seem keen to bat out the ban. Even as liquor brands have traditionally been associated with upmarket sporting activities like golf, polo, derby and yachting, companies are now turning towards the game of the masses - cricket.
In fact, the latter half of the current year will see liquor brands as the title sponsors of two major cricketing events featuring India.
Immediately after the triangular series at Zimbabwe (of which Royal Stag was the associate sponsor), the India and Zimbabwe Test series will be called the Royal Stag Cup.
Till date Royal Stag has used several international cricketers as brand endorsers. This is the first time the company has forayed into tournament sponsorship.
Similarly, the ICC World XI Vs Australia series to be held Down Under will be called the Johnnie Walker Super Series.
According to media planners, as both the series are being held outside India it would be difficult for the Government to blip out the liquor brands. "Since the matches will be beamed into Indian drawing rooms live, the brands will enjoy good visibility," they added.
Internationally beer brands such as Fosters and Lion have supported cricket in Australia and Sri Lanka respectively.
Meanwhile, Royal Stag has roped in Zimbabwean Vice-Captain, Heath Streak as their new Royal Stag brand ambassador. Other celebrity Royal Stag cricket endorsers include Australian Cricket captain Ricky Ponting, and India's ace offie Harbhajan Singh.
The Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry's efforts to ban surrogate advertising of liquor brands has reached a naught. A few months ago, it had sent out notices to various television channels to withdraw advertisements by liquor companies.
But within a few weeks of the notices being issued, surrogate advertising made a comeback on television. In fact, a few liquor companies have been advertising during the ongoing cricket series as well.
Earlier, in an interaction with Government officials, channels were categorically told that there is a complete ban on advertising by liquor companies. "However, exemptions could be granted on a case-by-case basis, like the one granted to Kingfisher Airlines," they had said.
The Government is also handicapped by procedure wherein it can take action against channels only after receipt of complaints. "The Government cannot suo motu issue show-cause notices. It has to first receive complaints," said official sources.
Liquor companies on their part state that their advertising is self-regulated and comply with the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the Advertising Standards Council of India code.