Guest Column: Rahul Dravid – and ‘The Wall’ will stand firm for posterity
N Ravi Shankar, CEO, Aim High Consulting narrates the story of how a metaphor was turned into a monument as he pays tribute to Dravid’s achievements
To shower tributes on someone when they hum their swansong before they fade away into oblivion is a known art. It is expected that when an icon calls it a day, media and followers recount the heroics and serenade the hero.
There have been cases like this in the past – mostly limited to sycophancy of admirers turning into devotees and building temples for their silver screen gods and divas. But none, I would suspect, for real life performers who have had to deal with hard leather hurled at them at obnoxious speeds. But then, there are monumental exceptions.
It was mid-2008, and our client Skyline Constructions’ contract with their brand ambassador was on the verge of expiry. As it happens, when any contract is about to lapse, the client felt that they had under-leveraged their brand ambassador. And, this is how they articulated the issue – “We have around three months to go with Rahul Dravid. We are not sure if we will be able to renew our contract with him. We need to do something, very quickly.” What had also built in the sense of urgency and desperation was the fact that there was an impending global recession lurking around the corner.
So, Aim High Consulting, barely a year old start-up then, was called into action. Having just signed on the PR account of Skyline, we had to now pass the litmus test. We started brainstorming on ways by which we could juice out the last bit from the cricketing icon; much the same way he would, of many hapless bowlers.
Here, now. We have a winning brand and a winning brand ambassador. How do we make the two talk to their respective audiences – together and convincingly? This is probably what all brand managers, advertising and PR agencies worry about. How do we ensure that the celebrity does not hijack the show that rightfully belongs to the brand? Getting greedier, how do you make it work for the brand, well past the man’s career and glory?
As it must be done in all disciplined brainstorming sessions, we started defining the qualities of the two things that we had on hand – which had to be seen as eternally wedded, vide this last collective hurrah!
There was the brand – the premium builder who was a known name in the construction business. Back then, in Bangalore, you could count them among the top three. They were probably the first in the category to hire a brand ambassador to propel their image.
Then, there was the brand ambassador. The man who had strung together many an Indian innings. The man who had ducked and dodged, and pulled and cut – but had remained impregnable. The one, whose sight meant a sigh of relief for his team and countrymen and a sigh of frustration for the opposition. The man, whose middle name was steadfastness, had been further improvised upon, and had earned himself the metaphor – ‘The Wall’!
Should a good idea connect the incongruous, or should it just bond the obvious? Either way, it doesn’t take long to recognise a good idea, when you really hit upon one. “The Wall”, one said, in probably the same ecstasy as Archimedes said “Eureka” – and for the same reason. The weight of gold was discovered! “The Wall” is what we should get our client to build in Dravid’s honour! That will, well and truly, be a tribute that is relevant and memorable. For, it comes from someone who is skilled in the business of building walls, to someone who is universally recognised and revered as The Wall, himself!
There is a critical rule in ‘brainstorming’, that should be given due credit, for saving this idea from being annihilated. It says – an idea should never be killed at the enlisting stage, however absurd and outlandish it might seem at the first instance. We followed that rule, and went jolly-riding on the idea.
‘The Wall’ that we build for the man should be a gigantic one – befitting the colossal proportions that his batting had assumed. It should be atleast three storeys tall. It should be either at the Bangalore International Airport, which had just opened, or better still, at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, where Dravid over the years had chiseled his batting craft. We should ideally get Sachin Tendulkar to inaugurate The Wall, because he was the only Indian to have achieved greater feats. And yes, every possible Indian cricketer worth his salt should be there to witness the unveiling of The Wall.
We knew we had slowly slipped from the practical possible to a conscious ideal; and then again stumbled over to sheer fantasy!
But then, as it always happens, we were so consumed by our own idea that we decided to present it to the client. After all, it was the client who wanted an earth shattering idea, and had egged us on to think out of the proverbial box.
We wrote out an ‘Approach Note’, and tried to camouflage the seemingly implausible, in strategic jargon. We found words that sounded serious enough for the client to consider allowing us to complete the presentation.
It looked, at that point, a pointless pipe dream. But, was it Paulo Coelho who said, “When you want something badly, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it”. We wanted, and it did happen. To cut the long story short, the client was thrilled with the idea of building The Wall. Skyline Constructions partnered with KSCA to build the 27 feet X 15 feet wall at the stadium premises. The launch ceremony was slated strategically a day before India took on Australia in Bangalore, thereby ensuring that all the cricketing greats were present. And it was Sachin Tendulkar who let go the silvery drape that covered The Wall, on October 6, 2008. What seemed like a wild goose chase at the beginning, is today a standing testament.
‘The Wall Stands Tall’ – as many newspaper headlines have pronounced when Dravid stood through many triumphs and ruins – is today an embodiment that can be seen as a colossal structure. As one enters the Karnataka State Cricket Association premises in the heart of Bangalore, you look up and salute the gentle master’s personification, complete with the words ‘Commitment, Consistency, Class’ etched on it.
So, coming back to the moot question – what makes a good idea – connecting the incongruous or linking the obvious? Both, is my answer. Or, at least, that is what happened in the case of The Wall. There was the obvious connection of the two being linked to The Wall. But, the proposition was incongruous enough to evoke intrigue. And, there stands The Wall. An endearing metaphor to begin with, and now, an enduring monument.
The author is CEO of Aim High Consulting.
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