Sport or Cinema: which is a safer bet for brand endorsement?

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At 8.45 am yesterday, there was a loud noise – the collective click of millions of TV sets being switched off across India. Soon after, the collective groan of marketers & agencies who bet big on the match, was also heard. Here was a highly anticipated match that could have set up the final decider. Yet, within 15 minutes, the Indian teams fate was sealed and potential eye balls were lost.  For marketers that is the risk associated with cricket. Which is a safer bet: film stars or cricket heroes? The debate has been on for some time and the preference is clearly for film stars.

The trouble with cricket is that the national sentiment is associated with it. When a batsman performs poorly, he lets down the whole nation. Or so the nation thinks. The ad portraying him as a super hero that immediately follows his dismissal is then seen almost as a personal affront to the viewer. A cricketer’s celebrity appeal may vanish with just one poor performance or series. That is necessarily not the case with a film star. A heroine’s film may bomb at the box office but the sentiments associated with the brand she endorses doesn’t change for that reason. But cricket fans aren’t that forgiving.

Viewership declining immediately after India’s exit from the Cricket World Cup is also proof of the risk associated with cricket endorsement. But when the going gets good for the Indian team or a particular player the positive vibes far outweigh the risks of failure. So it’s a high risk strategy. With films, it takes 2-3 hits spread over months to establish someone as a star – unless the first film itself is a blockbuster. With cricket, if a newcomer plays well even in one match the clamour to sign him on, begins. The risk of him becoming an ‘expensive’ star later becomes the motive. There are several bowlers from the current Indian team who were signed on early in their careers, but haven’t lived up to the billing or expectations.

The flip side of signing on a film star is that they come with distinct personas. The fit is then applicable to a certain set of brands – a chocolate boy hero may not work well with sporty brands, for example. While cricket stars too have their own personality, they may be a wee bit more flexible in brand associations – across a sightly higher number of categories, perhaps. Regional film stars and TV stars are also effective options for smaller or regional brands. That can’t be said of state or regional players.

Sports telecasts in India deliver the numbers only when India does well in cricket. Else, kuch aur dekh lega India. When they do well though, the rewards are matchless. Now, if only marketers could predict that for sure.

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  1. Sriram Iyer Reply

    I want to add another point, besides brand endorsements by cricketers & movie stars. Media planners in my opinion should prolly use a bit of common sense. In the on-going ODI – the Docomo TVC, singing the tune wala, is played atleast well over 20-25 times per hour. And multiply that over a single game and over the entire series. I like the ad, but it gets highly irritating when you’re subjected to it at the end of each over.

    I found the same irritation with Max Newyork life insurance TVC, “Sanju wala ad” during IPL 1. The ad is pretty good. But once you play it over & over & over again withing an hour – the viewers gets pretty disgruntled.

    It’s amazing how these small little things, if done carefully can help in the long run. The creatives might be excellent, but if you ‘rakhi sawantize’ it. Not good.

    • Valid point Sririam. The format of the game allows for ads every 5 minutes which when abused may become counter productive.

  2. The trick is to pick up the right kind of properties in sport…the BPL replay, the 50:50 logo on the third umpire screen etc are a probably better properties than betting on players….but that said…the glorious uncertainties of cricket is what makes the sport so irresistible to a viewer….combine that with the short public memories….and you’ll have eyeballs coming back for more when Sri lanka come in for the next series.

  3. “Kuch or main” I saw all serial replay’s..thanks to our team who didn’t want me to miss that.

    And yes that Docomo tune wala ad was a sigh of relief to us…only this could swing my niece mood. Vaisey it’s the easiest way for an agency to spend all the Paisa.
    Media planners : We have to plan the best way to utilise this budget. How about the cricket match.. Faayda?? ..who cares. Ok so where’s the party tonight.

    Agree with this Short memory syndrome..aakhir umeed pay duniya kaayam hai..Indian team playing at its best when expected most

  4. vivek kamath Reply

    lucky, this is a longish comment. please bear up.

    on cricket, my view is the money will move from individual endorsements to team ownership, especially with ipl offering this option.

    individual endorsements in sport will be the preserve of a select few. dhoni, yuvraj, sachin and perhaps, harbhajan in cricket;during ipl season, a couple of international cricketers like flintoff and brett lee may get a couple of brands; deepika pallikal, saina nehwal and somdev devvarman may get some traction if they perform well in their respective sports.

    movie stars will continue to get endorsements. i don’t really agree with your point about movie stars coming with fixed personas and sport stars being more flexible. in fact, movie stars wear personas for a living. if a star’s movie fails, you can still separate their ads from their films. when an athlete fails, you can only see a failed athlete in the ad.

    during one series some time ago, ganguly was not playing for fitness reasons. and the breaks carried his chyavanprash ad. during one grand slam tournament, sania lost in the second or third round and her tata tea campaign continued up the finals. sriram iyer’s point about the media planner’s role is very valid. i wonder if the media agency gets to view the ad prior or they just ship it to hong kong and watch it on tv with the rest of us.

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