Opinion: IPL is a bigger opportunity than the Super Bowl

Suman Srivastava, chief executive officer-India and chief strategy officer-Asia Pacific, Euro RSCG, explains why he thinks the cricket franchise could become a better stage for brands

Feb 12, 2011 02:28:00 AM | Article | Suman Srivastava

Creative people have a high “need-for-recognition”. Brands too. They both need a stage on which they can go all dressed up to preen. A stage where they can see and be seen. And which people will talk about for days and even years to come.

In the USA, the Super Bowl serves as the advertising industry’s prom night.

There is a wonderful cartoon which I read today about a group of people so engrossed in discussing the ads that appeared on the Superbowl, that they forgot to discuss the game itself. In fact, one guy exclaims that he forgot who won!

Is there any other show in the world where the advertising is discussed more than the show itself? Super Bowl is a need not just for the advertising industry, but the marketing industry. Especially in the new era where brands are all about conversations. Any forum that can help brands create conversations around them are obviously useful, even critical.

So clearly the Indian advertising industry needs a Super Bowl too. The questions is do we have one? If not, what can become our Super Bowl?

Given the diversity of our country, the only possible candidate has to be around cricket. Even movies do not make the cut, since the Hindi movie industry doesn’t have a fan base in the South. Elections are another possible candidate, but then no channel has the exclusive rights for the election results. So cricket it has to be.

Even cricket tends to be skewed towards males and the young. In any case, there is too much cricket on the box these days and so you need something special to pull in the whole family to watch a specific event which can then become the appropriate stage.

The IPL does appear to be a strong candidate. It takes place at prime time and thus displaces everything else that people may want to watch at the time. Plus it has combined glamour with cricket to create a package that attracts more than just the die-hard cricket fans.

Brands have started to use it as a stage. Vodafone staged the highly successful Zoozoo campaign here. There are a few other campaigns that got noticed because it ran on the IPL, even though they had run earlier on other shows. So IPL can certainly lay claim to being India’s Super Bowl.

However, is it there yet? There are obvious differences between the IPL and the Super Bowl. The most obvious is that the Superbowl is on a day, while the IPL is over a month. So the audience is a lot more concentrated on the Superbowl. But then the IPL offers you the advantage of rolling out an entire campaign rather than just one ad.

The bigger issue is that it has still not done enough to attract the entire family. I think the hosts on MAX, the official broadcaster, have been horrendous and their antics have been irritating rather than entertaining.

The telecast itself is good but not great. This is sad, since MAX had done so much to change the nature of pre-match shows in India with the introduction of “Extraa Innings” during the 2002 Champions Trophy and the 2003 World Cup.

The event is geared towards creating a great atmosphere in the stadium, which is not always captured by the TV cameras. Thus what the TV audience gets is a lot of entertaining cricket and some poor quality packaging around it. This is not a recipe to capture the attention of the whole country.

Still, the good news is that we do have a viable candidate for the post of Super Bowl of India. Like everything in India, it requires work, but can then deliver a product that will make the original seem quite trivial and small.

Then we can really start to preen.