• Rohan Mukherjee

In this Cricket World Cup, are brands the real winners?

A brief analysis of brand associations with ICC World Cup.

If you don't give the market the story to talk about, they'll define your brand's story for you. - David Brier

All of us are stoked about this Sunday's ICC World Cup Finals between England and New Zealand - but there might just be bigger players eyeing another Cup. No, Afghanistan isn’t making a ‘surprise comeback’ - this is international cricket, not a reality show. Things aren’t scripted here. Well, most of the times.

While we have 10 teams fighting it out on the field - all for ultimate glory, there is another match taking place off the field - the battle of the brands.

It’s old news - that brands thrive during Cricket World Cup. Larger the scale, bolder the stakeholders. In the 2019 ICC World Cup, Volkswagen India is one such brand who upped the ante this season with a classic touch of ambush marketing. A page off the old book, since Pepsi had adopted a similar method in 1996 against rival cola player - Coca-Cola who was the official sponsor with a cheeky “Nothing official about it” campaign line.

Volkswagen used #GermanyCheersForIndia to hint at the world cup, and appeal to a localised sentiment. In a conversation with Quartz, Bishwajeet Samal, said: “We wanted to break the communication clutter generated by a multitude of brands during this mega cricketing event. The objective was to drive awareness and test drives for cars, and to establish new editions as a symbol of fandom and sportsmanship.”

But it’s not just Volkswagen India who made themselves heard during the World Cup, there are a handful of brands who with extraordinary performances off the field:

Conventionally speaking, this game has always been owned by FMCG, mobile handset, telecom and consumer durable brands but this year, digital-first ads have occupied a strong ‘unified voice’ during the game. Let’s just compare the 2015 World Cup’s brand associations with this year’s stock. Four years back, the first digital players to partner with the broadcaster were Gaana, Cricbuzz, Policybazaar, CarTrade, and Yepme.

Interestingly, analysis suggests, in 2019, the number of digital first brands as well as the categories they represent have increased more than two-times.

It is said that one of the key factors pushing this trend in emerging media is that the market has moved rapidly in recent years - and consumers are increasingly engaging with brands in their daily life - while ordering food, cabs, medicines - or even for paying bills. This gives brands a steady set of eyeballs to capture.

Brands with a limited budget, and decent social media presence can make ripples in the internet with clever + viral-worthy content. This is a stark difference from sponsoring players and teams - although if you have the funds to do so, by all means the ROI is worth every rupee. The advantage here - of social media marketing is that it can be done at a fraction of the cost of sponsoring an event. “You’re only spending on the creative development of the post,” said Kumar. “In the worst case, it costs Rs 50,000 plus what you are paying (ad) agencies to put up the post. Official sponsorship can go up to tens of crores.”

Speaking of tens of crores - United Breweries, the ones who brew our favourite Kingfisher beer, has sponsored the home parties of some of its consumers during match days under the hashtag #KFHomeStadium to shift some of the spotlight from Bira 91, an official sponsor. I mean, Mallya’s clan has always known how to throw a party.

But there’s a key difference between latching on to a hot topic in social media versus in marketing - basically, such posts don’t classify as ambush marketing, but fall under “topical advertising.” This is when brands create an advertisement around a topical news story or a moment in a sporting event. That’s what keeps the digital campaigns within the good side of brand ethics - albeit that line between is blurry.

But enough of brand talk - and data jargon. We started this article with one question - Are brands the real winners in this World Cup? Maybe not. Let's just say that we, the onlookers are the winners - if cricket pushes brands to create better content, we suppose it's all worth it.



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