So India has crashed out of the ICC Cricket World Cup, and some Indian companies are asking television channels to allow them to pull out of committed advertising spends, or at least reduce the rates they’re charging for airtime!

Well that’s expected on one hand, and absurd on the other. But not the way you’d imagine I’m referring to it.

It’s not absurd that the Indian team has crashed out… that’s expected. And you’re not expected to renege on committments to channels… what the advertisers are asking for is absurd!

Keeping in mind the Indian team’s performance in the past, who on earth would commit such large sums of money to cricket (like many brands did) – or worse, build your entire brand campaign around cheering the Indian team (which is what Pepsi did with their Blue Bloomer… sorry, Blue Billion campaign).

I’ve always believed cricket is the national excuse for laziness and mediocrity. In more ways than one.

When there’s a match on, some of the busiest offices in the country come to a stand still. As a boss I’ve always had tough time getting people to leave the conference room tv and get back to meeting a critical deadline, leave alone do normal day to day work!

When it comes to cricket, the biggest idiots in the office, suddenly get a voice and friends with whom they can discuss the lates scores and the form (or lack of it) of various players.

But of course, the biggest form of laziness brought about by cricket, is that displayed by advertising media planners and clients – who think cricket is the one solution for all their problems – leave alone the brand personality, or target audience.

I’ve actually experienced having the media chief of one of the agencies i worked with in the past, go hysterical when i suggested we stay out of cricket during one tournament a couple of years back – “How can you stay out of cricket!!! You cannot stay out of cricket!!! It’s suicide!! Everyone in India watches cricket… where will I get my GRPs and reach and whatever…!” she screamed, and then added “I don’t tell you how to make an ad, so don’t tell me how to plan media!” and then she stormed out of the meeting!

Then there’s Pepsi – which sane client would go for a campaign, where the basic assumption is genetically flawed – the assumption that India would do well. How can they have imagined that all the Indian stars jumping up and down in war paint cheering the team would actually look good on the field, instead of looking glazed as the entire country (and advertisers) is right now.

I think we should take a leaf out of US and UK advertising and the way they build campaigns around sport and sport stars:

  • The sport is the hero and the stars are but players, never forget that
  • You dramatize the passion and talent of stars, don’t make individual superheroes out of them as if their *hit doesn’t stink
  • Choose your brand ambassadors carefully – select them for performance, rather than buy teams in bulk. This way you avoid mass embarassment when the team as a whole crashes out.

Alternately, you do what Nike in India has just done – brilliant use of cricket (see below). It’s all the passion of the sport, without the embarassment of the players. Now I’ll drink a Coke to that!

[youtube= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib3WSzJyqVQ] 

PS. Just so you don’t think mine is a typical reaction of all Indians, including those in media who take to bashing the Indian team every time it does badly, i’d like to specify i have nothing against the members of the Indian cricket team. To me they’re just a bunch of guys trying to do their job, with a fair share of good days and bad.

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