There is another Sachin record in the making even as I write. Only, for a change, he is not instrumental in creating it. Many may think it’s the reams of copy in newspapers or many seconds of footage on television. But that’s not it. It’s the monetising of the farewell that has my attention.
Pick up a newspaper anywhere in the country and you will see how the content is dominated by news about the cricketing maestro. Switch on a news channel and you will see the same great innings being replayed, with a commentator presenting it with aggressive passion..
Mind you, all this is happening when we are on the verge of elections in five States; food inflation has again hit double-digits; relations with neighbouring countries are not exactly pleasant and global diplomacy is facing unknown challenges. Since the magnitude of the loot seems to be hitting new benchmarks, I thought it merited mention, at least for the sake of the sane.
Over 300 channels, more than 50 newspapers and endless radio stations have been indulging in a festival called ‘the Sachin tribute’. Each television channel and newspaper has created its own branding, such as “Thank you, Sachin”, “Alvida Sachin”, and the like.
One network has even dedicated a channel to the maestro’s farewell!A general entertainment channel has created episodes around the farewell and the mad scramble for tickets for the last test match in Mumbai.
The madness started when the master announced his imminent departure from competitive international cricket. The cricket crazy nation went beserk and the countdown began.
Top media houses competed to innovate and generate the green bucks. One daily even brought the sports page on to the front page to demonstrate due respect. There are two points to be made here: one, few realise that the front page charges a premium of 100 per cent over the applicable tariff; two, you upset the advertiser who had initially booked the front page position and treat him with scant respect as there is more moolah to be made.
It’s now or never
Ad sales executives were told it was war, it was now or never. We need to maximise our revenues and this is the opportunity of a lifetime. The sales team went all out to push the product as a collector’s item, hence justifying the price.
Sachin has done great service to the faded stars of yesteryear. The silent achievers of the seventies and eighties have suddenly found stardom on prime time. Little do they realise that each word they utter is ringing the cash bells.
Where is Sachin?
The only question I asked when these media sales specialists dropped in to present their case was: “Would you be talking to Sachin? I am sure there will be a recent interview.”
The answer was always shrouded in ambiguity as this was not part of the agenda and was intended to be. That defines credibility for the tribute no matter how much fanfare and hype is generated. So far, whatever we have seen is the same footage and dated interviews. In fact, during the Kolkata test, Sachin himself expressed displeasure at the over-the-top merchandising of his retirement.
Kolkata set the benchmark for media decibel levels. Now everything possible will be done to ensure that media noise levels around the Mumbai test surpasses Kolkata.
A random check with media pundits about benchmark revenues likely to be generated in this month of Sachin festivity throws up a figure close to half of what the IPL generated. Seems unbelievable? The only difference is there are many stakeholders, maybe around 300, for the pie. They say opportunities are like heartbeats and you cannot afford to miss any if you want to live. The reality is that you need to have the ability to gauge an opportunity. The more you latch on to a myopic chance the more likely you are to dilute the equity of the brand that feeds you.
Fortunately, in these month-long festivities, there are none. All the parties have done their level best to milk a man’s stature and lineage of 24 years; and that too without his participation.
(The author is CEO, Melon Media.)