Advertising’s hits and misses at the Cricket World Cup

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on July 11, 2019

Two to tango: Phonepe Boy

Two to tango: Swiggy Uncle

It could have been the SuperBowl moment for Indian advertising but was a tame innings

In the US, the championship game of the National Football League — the Super Bowl — has the highest viewership and arguably the best advertising. Big brands such as Coca Cola, Budweiser, Chrysler, Doritos have crafted memorable ads specially for the event and SuperBowl commercials are a thing.

Can we say the same about the Cricket World Cup? After all in the first fortnight alone the event got a viewership of over 342 million and brands did spend big bucks on ads (Star India was reportedly charging ₹15-16 lakh for 10 seconds). “This could have been a showreel of Indian advertising, but what a tame portfolio it turned out to be,” exclaims Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner and CSO, Bang In the Middle. Only Swiggy and PhonePe produced outstanding commercials according to him, in a long line of flop or average ads. What irks Gupta is that brands could have produced commercials just for the World Cup, but failed to do so. Some of those that did do so, like Kamala Pasand or Uber, seemed to have done a rushed job. Given that the World Cup was coming so soon after IPL, cricket-themed ads would not have been so difficult to pull off as Swiggy and Coke showed.

Agrees Sanjay Sarma, CEO of Design Worldwide: “This is actually our Super Bowl. But we did not create anything inspiring — there was so much mundane, and hackneyed stuff,” he says. “The advertising did not look like it was really for the World Cup but could have been at any other moment of the year,” he says. The unanimous verdict then is that Lowe Lintas was the biggest scorer at the CWC with two of its campaigns Swiggy and PhonePe.

What happened to the usual scene stealers — the cola brands? While Coca-Cola signalled its five-year deal with ICC and its official beverage sponsor status with a carefully crafted “Stock up” campaign for the cricket world cup starring Ranbir Kapoor and Paresh Rawal, there were some who felt that while the ad was nice enough and did capture the frenzy of the fan, it did not leverage its two talented celebrities to the hilt. Meanwhile, Pepsi joined the party rather late with a fan anthem looping in grandma specatator Charulata Patel that showed hardly any swag. Critics of the Pepsi ad on social media wondered what happened to the famed ambushes of the past — remember Nothing Official About It or the emotional ad made overnight featuring Kapil Dev’s mother when he broke Sir Hadlee’s record.

Gupta feels that the days of the great cola commercials rivalry are over and it’s now more a battle between handset makers. Oppo had a pleasant enough campaign. OnePlus rode with a global campaign. For Gupta, Apple was a big disappointment. “When brands such as Apple produce insipid advertising, you wonder which way the industry is heading,” he says. The Uber campaign rode on cricket and had Virat Kohli no less, but as Sarma says it looked as though the brand ambassador had given barely any time to the advertiser.

Car maker Ford had jumped into the world cup with a cause marketing campaign but its “Papa I am adopting a baby” ad rang fake as it was forcefitted into a car situation. “Instead,” says Sarma, “the brand could have gifted a few cars to an adoption agency and showed a baby being taken by its new parents home in a Ford car.” If you are promoting a cause, the least you can do is to show some participation in a cause rather than mouthing platitudes.

Cinematically speaking also, says Sarma, none of the ads really appealed to him, as there were no breathtaking shots or high definition backdrops. “Super Bowl ads are made with huge planning. But our industry wakes up very late, and then prays it turns out well,” says Gupta.

Published on July 11, 2019

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