The moral limits of the market

Dec 28 2012, 00:57 IST
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SummaryLooking at the Indian Premier League (IPL) purely as a business, the model is exemplary.

Can capitalism help build communities just as it makes profits

Amit Kapoor & Arnav Sawhny

Looking at the Indian Premier League (IPL) purely as a business, the model is exemplary. Sell it to an entertainment-hungry and cricket-fanatic nation—unique combination of its two loves—and you get a neatly packaged family blockbuster. The brand value of the IPL may be on the drop but that has done nothing to reduce its sheen for marketers, brands and advertisers. PepsiCo struck a R396.8 crore ($71.77 million) deal for title sponsorship rights over the next five years, and while they would surely have done their homework before investing large amounts of money, one may have to wait and see how the tournament unfolds over the next few years to determine the shrewdness of the deal.

While the aim of this article is not to critique PepsiCo’s marketing decision, it raises an astute question of the morality of markets. It brings to the forefront the bitter truth that the market we live in today is purely capitalistic in nature. Companies the world over are looking at sustaining brand value as their prime focus. While there is nothing wrong in basing one’s business model on this, the path followed to achieve it stands as a differentiator for organisations. Companies have made profits because of their existence in society. But is it only about maximising shareholder wealth? Are companies in the market only to print plastic money? What about the larger roles of organisations in today’s society – of making quality goods and services to fix the game, of doing real good to the society. Could the R400 crore spent on simply sponsoring an event be better utilised? Say the brand perceives its association with sport, and in particular cricket as an objective and the way forward. Could a part or whole of this amount been offered to set up training academies—encouraging young athletes to take up the sport and providing them with access to world-class facilities. It could also be synced with the brand’s approach to other sports—by using the universal appeal of the IPL to draw public appreciation for Olympic athletes.

Noam Chomsky spoke of “manufacturing consent”, where he discusses an institutional analysis of the major media, what we call a propaganda model. By this model, the media determines, selects, shapes and hence controls public opinion. This is an acute case in point. By sensationalising the IPL, mostly for the

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