The brand equity of Rajasthan Royals has been displaced post the spot fixing controversy, but it is not dented. Although the team, which has always excelled in fair play, has played well this season, Indians, who consider cricket to be a religion, feel betrayed and the trust factor in the tournament has gone down.
Three players, S Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila, all belonging to the Rajasthan franchisee have been arrested by the Delhi police and more players from other franchisees are likely to follow after the alleged connection of the bookies. Although the team management, BCCI and the IPL organising committee have swung into damage control mode, the market sentiment has already taken a catastrophic stride.
From the brand value point of view, Rajasthan Royals still stands intact. Arshad Nizam, Director, Alliance Advertising, who handles Kent RO for RR said, “It is only the three players who are linked to all this. As a team, we have one of the most credible captains in the form of Rahul Dravid and other players too are clean. Kent RO stands for purity, and till date Rajasthan Royals have been best identified with fair play. Although, we have taken off all communications featuring Sreesanth! There are other important things to be focussed on in IPL and not only spot fixing. Our association with the brand Rajasthan Royals remains intact and we are not perturbed with the ongoing controversies.”
“We are not commenting on our association with the Rajasthan Royals. As a team they are firm and genuine. The three tainted players have been arrested and as a policy, even we disown them. But our association with the RR franchise has been amazing and we are proud to partner with them,” mentioned an official of a leading sponsor of the team on condition of anonymity.
Market experts say that the brand value of the team has gone down slightly with the fans. But in long-term, the trust would be reinstated if the team management and the BCCI are able to handle the crisis effectively.
Ajit Varghese, Managing Director, South Asia, Maxus said, “Controversies keep happening. When Salman Khan was sentenced for a jail term, many brands had taken back their endorsements. But now they are all back. Similarly, in this case it depends on how Rajasthan Royals are able to win back fans and public support, and handle the current crisis effectively. Short-term effect would persist but in the long run, I don’t see a brand rupture happening for Rajasthan Royals and sponsors would continue endorsing as long as the team as a whole is un-tainted.”
The trust factor among people and brands regarding IPL has gone down. “Post the controversy, people have started talking about match fixing possibility in matches if there is a sudden dismissal or fielding failure by the players of the either team. Online FB pages are flooded with mock-photos of players talking in a bookie’s language and trying to conceal facts. That is the level of passion in this country,” said Amin Shekhar, media analyst.
Experts also say that Rajasthan Royals as a franchise will not be affected much if they are able to curtail the damage in the best way possible. But Brand IPL has been more in question than the individual franchise. Since the arrest, Rajasthan Royals has been far less criticised than IPL as a tournament. On the day of the arrest of the players, IPL and Sreesanth were trending on Twitter and not Rajasthan Royals. Fans, followers, and the general public have been blaming IPL and its management committee more than the franchise.
The management committee of IPL has to be very precautious in handling the entire crisis as more than the RR franchise, it is the entire tournament which has taken a hit. As Shekhar rightly summed up, “Even from branding point of view, this is the first time match fixing has come into light. Now the next time when IPL will come around, the first thing that people would think of is match fixing, because anyways IPL is less about cricket and more about entertainment.”