Shailesh Kapoor: India-Zimbabwe: As Dull As It Gets

02 Aug,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

In my almost 30 years of cricket following, this week has been a new low. India is playing a five-match ODI series in Zimbabwe. Out of sheer habit, I tried sampling one of the games. Within seconds, I was out of it. Dead grounds, players going through the motions and commentators from the B-league… There was nothing on offer at all.

 

I have written a few months back on ‘Too Much Cricket’ and how pointless cricket creates that perception. But here, the question is even larger. It makes one wonder: Who funds this cricket? And whether indeed any such cricket can ever make money?

 

In our IPL advertising equity research Ormax Trac20, we found that only about 20 brands managed to attract viewer attention over the course of the 45-day tournament, out of the 200+ brands that associated with IPL or its franchises in various ways. The 2011 World Cup was not very different, where about a dozen brands controlled 80% of the recall share.

 

So, even in the most high-profile, high-interest tournaments, only the big sponsors and innovators stand out. Why should any advertiser, besides at best the title sponsor (that too arguable), buy onto an India-Zimbabwe series, by paying rates that would be at significantly higher CPRPs than most other genres?

 

And if indeed no one should, why should such a series be held in the first place? If it were to promote cricket in Zimbabwe, an India A team would have been a good idea too.

 

This brings me to the larger question of media bias, where media choices of several brands are influenced by individual perceptions. I know of brands who would like to be on cricket, because certain senior executives, including the CEO at times, “feels” cricket is the right choice for them. And if they can’t afford the IPL or an India-Pak series, they settle for whatever comes their way.

 

In an interesting case a few years ago, I heard about a CMO who bought into cricket series and then planned an extensive travel itinerary for himself, so that he can give out the Man of the Match awards. This, while his new product launch, which was being advertised in the series, should have taken his time and attention at the marketing office.

 

I wonder if CMOs sometimes buy into such properties to make their CVs more attractive. “Spearheaded the launch of the new handset through the title sponsorship of an India-Sri Lanka series” sounds more attractive than “Delivered the most cost-efficient TV campaign in the mobile phones category in 2012-13”. Maybe not!

 

In another case, a sales executive at a channel (not a GEC) managed to sign a 30 lac sponsorship deal for a reality show by luring the MD of the brand to be the “Chief Guest” in the season finale, where he will give out the cheque to the winner, and speak about the brand. The MD spoke for about three minutes, and all of that had to be retained in the actual show.

 

Even as the big agencies continue to grapple with larger questions related to measuring advertising effectiveness that goes beyond just CPRP benchmarking, we have a universe of ad hoc advertisers providing us enough entertainment on the sidelines.

 

Come to think of it, if you watch the fifth India-Zimbabwe ODI tomorrow like you watch a B-grade film that’s so bad, it’s good, you may end up having a good time anyway!

Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor

 

 

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