Men in Blue losing brand sheen

Mumbai, Jan 20 | Updated: Jan 21 2007, 07:38am hrs
When the Men in Blue meet Laras boys today for the opening one-dayer in the four-match series, there will be a lot at stake for them both on and off the field. For, going by the recent beatings the team has taken on the pitch, marketers are sitting on the fence. One reason why in spite of the World Cup barely two months away, we are yet to see any cricketing ads, forget the customary big deals.

Traditional World Cup sponsors like LG, Pepsi, Indian Oil and Hero Honda, who have poured in millions in the past, are waiting for the teams fortunes to change for the better. Till then, their argument is: how do you whip up a brand frenzy if the people at the heart of it all, Dravid & Co, arent quite on top of the game.

Take, for instance, Virender Sehwag, once the darling of brands, and now not even in the playing 11. Hes got good endorsements, like Pepsi, Hero Honda, Boost, Adidas, Britannia and so forth and they have been very patient, says Latika Khaneja, director, Collage Sports Management, which manages the former vice-captain. But no new sign-ups are happening for now. Hes supposed to be dynamic, win matches for India. I dont see any purpose in going to the market when his brand quality is not being adhered to, she admits.

Captain Rahul Dravid apart, underdog Sourav Ganguly and pacer S Sreesanth, the brand image of even a dasher like M S Dhoni, who endorses Parle, Brylcreem, TVS, Bharat Petroleum, Pepsi and so forth, has slipped. Its too early to speak of any deals, says Dhonis brand manager Jeet Banerjee.

Its too early to speak of any deals, says Dhonis brand manager Jeet Banerjee. Ganguly was recently signed up for a one-year contract by consumer electronics company TCL.

Marketers are cautious about backing faces that may not take the team as a whole forward into Barbados, says brand domain expert Harish Bijoor. Cricket, the mother-brand, reigns supreme even today. The lack of performance of the sub-set player brands, like a Sachin or a Dhoni, has created the current lacklustre cricket-advertising environment. So, when LG found it difficult to cope with the ups and downs of cricket players, they decided to back the sport, not individuals.

Usually, companies which take cricketers on as ambassadors, factor-in the fact that they would move in and out of the team. So, companies like LG back the sport, not the player.

Take Indian Oil. While IOL officials arent worried over sacked Irfan Pathan, they admit its not comfortable. Says N Srikumar, GM, corporate communications: We dont have a myopic view that we must eject him. But brand ambassadors have to do the job and exit. Pathans IOL contract comes up for renewal mid-2007 after the World Cup.