Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What Brand of Cricket?

Cricket is in the news arguably for the wrong reasons; since it is so it would be relevant to investigate the market forces behind this ‘Brand’ of Cricket. The power of BCCI and its voice power in changing or reversing ICC decisions derives from its money power, and this money power is from a huge cricket crazy middle class of India who are consuming anything to do with cricket at a furious pace. Cricket is part of the cola you drink, the gum you chew, the bike or the car you drive, etc.

Let’s investigate this phrase – Brand of Cricket – and find out the commercial roots and enormous power being generated. What is a Brand anyway? The best definition and the simplest one goes like this “Brand is the sum of the functional and emotional characteristics, both tangible and intangible that a customer attributes to a product or service. These characteristics are embodied in a name, trademark, symbol, or design or any combination of these.” When the emotions of every Indian ran high after the Sydney imbroglio, it merely displays the extent of cricket the spectator/consumer has consumed over the years in various forms. The emotional side of the brand got triggered off within the consumers after Sydney, albeit the wrong emotions, but so what its emotions anyway. Did you also notice the media, particularly Television, going hammer and tongs? Well the media is consumed by this sport too. If its against injustice and flawed judgment we have it in abundance in our country but who cares. Add cricket to the equation and it all changes.

A leading advertising company – Young and Rubicam in its research to map the brands and their profitability quotient had tracked the brands on a ‘Image and Vitality’ scale. According to them for a brand to be profitable for the present it must possess adequate Image points, and for the brand to be relevant for the future it must have adequate vitality points. Too much of image points would mean that the brand is aging fast and its time to add some vitality to stop or reverse the aging process. The best way to add vitality is to flirt on the fringes of controversy – good press you win and bad press you win win.

The Brand of Cricket, with its white attire and toupees, and with its 5 day format surely garnered too many image points for brand comfort. Then the gentleman’s game image added more brownies to the image side of the game. Personalities like Douglas Jardine (Bodyline series, Trevour Chapel (underarm) were the brats who were disliked but did a great service with their ‘roguish’ behavior and brought in vitality to Brand Cricket. The 50 over format of the game eventually was devised to add vitality points to the aging Brand Cricket – then of course the 20:20 format. So if you were to measure the brand quotient of cricket at this stage, you would see it scoring high on the vitality scale, thanks to Australia. Now are the market forces governing the behavior of individual players? You will never know.

Lets step away a little bit and look at the what the consumer, particularly in India, is looking for. In the days of yore there were very little to transact, very little to choose from and had to wait of nearly 6 years to get a telephone connection, and use recommendations from the MPs for a gas connection. We had no choice in the purchase level and all that the consumer expected was ‘service with a smile’. Friendly service was the mantra for success. Today we have come to a point in time when there is a variety to choose from, the cartons on the shelves communicate to the consumer and she gets ticked off even if a smiling, well mannered shop assistant extends help in a super market. When we call the telephone company we are irritated by the pleasantries, it’s all about moving straight to the point and having our problems solved.

Can we surmise that the consumer of today is not concerned about how you provide the service (delivery mode or style) but the efficiency of the service? A nasty foe who can deliver is far better than a smiling friend who cannot.

Today’s marketers are not bending backwards to sell their wares. They are devising methods and strategies to create a product that a consumer will but into. And they realize that Brand Cricket can deliver a fusion of image and vitality, friend and foe.

My speculation is the Brand Cricket has become more powerful, its taken the wind out of our national game - Hockey that was making a feeble comeback with Chak de.
Australian players will actually more then double their valuation – ask ICL.

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