Indian Pigheaded League: When Brands become Stubborn

IPigLAs I write this post, the IPL 7 auctions are underway. The PR machinery of the franchise is working overtime to get people enthused and excited. From conversations around which player in which franchise to new kids on the block the twitter universe is abuzz.

There is no denying the fact that IPL perhaps has been one of the most popular leagues anywhere in the world. Cricketers of all cricket playing nations with or without test status would give an arm and leg to feature in the league and earn themselves a contract. A lot has been written about how the younger lot of cricketers yearn a chance to play the IPL over donning the national cap!

Someone once said that any publicity is good publicity. Brand IPL seems to live, breathe and propagate this credo. Seldom has a brand been so synonymous with controversies. One might opine that controversy is a design element of the product that IPL is.

What is surprising is that even aspersions on the quality of the core product viz T20 cricket have not come in the way. From match fixing to betting, physical assaults to sexual assaults the IPL seasons have witnessed a range of controversies.

Good or bad, right or wrong.  Let’s face it IPL is a commercial enterprise.   A vehicle for other brands to be seen and heard. The designed for Television IPL has seen a declining trend over the past 6 seasons as far its TV ratings are concerned, they are none the less significant.  The season six had almost Rs.800Crs riding on it as advertising revenues. That seems to be brand IPL’s reason for chugging along as well. It is for all practical purposes the Super Bowl equivalent of India. Brands plan for their IPL related spends and campaigns much in advance.  Those who are not associated or cannot afford the IPL keep their plans ready for reaching consumers outside of the IPL juggernaut during the 45 day spectacle.

A recent report put IPLs brand value in excess of $3Bn with a combined brand valuation of the franchises at over $400Mn. With the depleting central pool and the allied sponsorship/merchandising revenues, the question mark over the franchisees making money however continues. The brand valuations of the individual franchises seems to be the redeeming factor for the investors at the moment.

IPL 6 despite the fixing controversy still beamed into a whopping 129Mn households in India. Might perhaps is right. The might of brand IPL seems to be in its popularity or the numbers. Maybe Indians are so used to the typical masala pot-boiler entertainment format that they have made an allowance for all the negatives in the IPL format.

The question that is begging to be asked is whether brands can truly benefit from an association with a “property” that is so mired in the long run? Is there such a thing as a negative rub-off? After all, media planners and agencies do sell the positive rub-off from an association with integrated properties. Does the end really justify the means?

I guess the Indian consumer is an innocent forgiving lot. More often than not, they judge you for who you are and not who you are seen or associated with. That’s our culture perhaps, our mythology treats a Karna and Vibhishana with respect despite their association with evil.

We are accepting of the multiple shades of grey.

Meanwhile, IPL the brand and the brands that ride on it march on stubbornly into Season 7.

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