IPL Cricket & Ads: The Parallels

18 Oct,2021

Screengrab from Disney+Hotstar website (https://www.hotstar.com/)


By Vikas Mehta


Vikas MehtaI write this review while watching the final of the Indian Premier League (IPL). For me, the tournament and the players had lot of parallels with the ads that were on the air. Let’s dive into these.


This tournament saw a revival in fortunes of established teams like Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). As well as some old stars like Uthapa and Du Plessis. Advertisements which ran in the first edition of this IPL and were then forgotten saw a revival in this extended edition of IPL. Finolex, Phone Pe, Unacademy, Dream 11, Mutual funds….


This IPL saw a lot of established players disappoint. Rohit Sharma, the Pandya brothers, Rahul Chahar, Hazelwood, Morgan, Dinesh Karthik, Rabada… all disappointed. Similarly ads from established brands like Coke, Thums Up, Ceat, Berger Paints, Sprite… disappointed. Eminently forgettable performances.


In the league stage, Delhi Capitals dominated the tournament by winning 10 out of their 14 games. Similarly edtech as a category dominated the ad scene. Byju’s, Byju’s Adarsh, Byju’s Whitehat Jr, Lido small group tuitions, Unacademy, UpGrad, Great Learning etc showed the potential and dominance of the category.


For M S Dhoni there was double success. While his contribution to CSK lifting the trophy was not all that significant, his single-handed contribution of appearing in most number of ads was unmatched. Homelane, Dream 11, ITC Yipee, Mutual Funds sahi hai, Indigo paints all benefitted with the free time he has since his retirement. I won’t be surprised to see him soon in some ed tech ad too.


The last few matches of the tournament saw a new campaign by Dream 11. Captioned Dream Big, the campaign I thought was a standout. Using different players, they used a different narrative for each under the Dream Big Umbrella. It’s interesting storytelling and flexible format was excellent. I liked almost all the ads, with Hardik Pandya, Dhawan and Bumrah being my favourites. A standout performance almost like the performance of K Rahul and Harshal Patel who stood tall amongst the batsmen and bowlers respectively.


Venkatesh Iyer was the star new kid on the block. He played aggressively and even had a good differentiation because he can roll over his arm effectively. The Oven Story ad was a good parallel here. A seemingly new entrant, at least as an IPL advertiser, the brand had interesting differentiation in the Pizza category and created a good enough impact for my daughter to order for it.


While the performer of the tournament was a difficult choice between Gaikwad, Iyer and Patel,  for me the best ad performance came from Neeraj Chopra in the Cred ad. He blended well into the narrative and looked as natural as he does on the athletic field. But the new Cred ad featuring Kapil Dev on the last day was a total disappointment. It did not have the energy and joie de vivre that all the other Cred ads have had. It looked like the opening ceremony of most IPL tournaments. Too much pomp. Very little narrative.


But overall the ads were very tepid. The use of celebrities dominated the scene. Dhoni, Ranveer Singh, Kohli, Bumrah etc were omnipresent. The narrative though was predictable and in most cases just relying on star power. Frankly, the second half of IPL was similar. With just two-three games going to the wire, the one-sided final was a reflection of how most of the games panned out.


The parallels continued right till the end. There was a lot of speculation about Dhoni’s retirement from IPL as a player. And the suspense continued even in the post-match interview. Will he retire or continue?  Exactly the same thing happened with the Kamla Pasand surrogate ad of Amitabh Bachchan. With a holier-than-thou attitude, he made a grand statement of withdrawing from the ad and returning money for the ad as he did not know it was a surrogate ad. He obviously does not live on earth. But like Dhoni, the ad was not retired, even five days after AB’s statement. It was there in the finals too. What did disappear, albeit briefly were SRK Byju’s ads. But blink and they were back. All the twitter brouhaha lasted for just a few days.


There was one area where the parallels ended. CSK proved that old is gold. A team led by a 40-year-old with many players above 30 and retired from all other types of cricket, the team did well to win the tournament. The same, of course, cannot be said of the old traditional brands which have ceded ground to new category and brands and have been totally eclipsed. Let’s hope these new categories and brands do create new benchmarks in their advertising too. The next edition of IPL will tell us if that comes true. Till then au revoir, sayonara, alvida, tata.


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