After the recent controversies sorrounding IPL, a lot of discussions are taking place in the Indian media on “IPL” as a brand.

Modi supporters are vociferous in stating that Modi singlehandedly built the IPL brand and his continued presence is essential in the future also for the brand to grow. Bollywood babes who claim to be owners of IPL teams and are allegedly proxies to others  have started speaking about Brand building capabilities of Modi.

BCCI ofcourse claims to be the owner of this brand now and wants to claim the benefits of the last three years of IPL success.

In the midst of these developments there is a need for cricket lovers to understand who exactly is responsible for the IPL brand and who deserves credit. This will also throw light on where it could be in the years to come.

IPL brand has been contributed by three factors. Firstly it is a brand whose essence is the game of Cricket.  Secondly it is a factor of the advertisement expenditure that is made on the brand. Thirdly, IPL is a replica of ICL which had a popular launch. The IPL brand can therefore be analysed as a combination of these three components.

Some observers have been hailing IPL brand success to say that this is the only global brand created by India which did not happen in any other sports and the credit is due to Modi for that.

However it must be remembered that the brand “Cricket” is created by the Indian Cricket fan and hence a big part of the credit for IPL success belongs to the Indian Cricket Fans.

For those who have followed cricket over a generation, it is evident that the brand “Cricket” got  a boost in India first with Gavaskar and the successes Indian Cricekt team had when it beat West Indies and England in successive series in the 70’s. Before this, Hockey was India’s major sport and had a following which was bigger than cricket. Slowly, as India started losing its position in world Hockey and achieved  stray successes on the Cricket field, Indian sport lovers switched their love from Hockey to Cricket.

The single most important factor that catapulted “Indian Cricket” into a “Religion” or “Brand” was the unexpected success of India in 1983 when India became the first country to displace the awesome West Indian team as the World Cup kings. The credit for this went completely to Kapil Dev who saved India through a critical record breakign knock of 175 during the earlier stage and went on to lead the side to victory.

This win reinforced the Indian fan’s belief that Indian Cricket had finally arrived. Since then Cricket was adopted as a “Religion” and  its popularity kept on growing until it took a beating in the world cup loss in 2007 when India lost to Bangladesh and was eliminated very early in the competition.

Fortunately, Indian Cricket was saved from a loss of fan following since India notched up another unexpected World Cup win in T20 under Dhoni immediately after the World Cup (one day) loss. With this win, the Indian fan quickly restored his faith in the Indian Cricket brand now in the T 20 format.

This enormous fan following is the primary reason why IPL got off to a good start and also got good TV sponsorships. The large ad spends during the IPL matches obviously added to the brand value.

However we know that advertisement can build a brand only if the brand has an essential strength and not otherwise. Since brand Cricket was strong, ad spend could build the IPL brand further.

The third important factor behind IPL brand success is the fact that ICL itself was a grand success. It was ICL which created the concept which was adopted by IPL. It is a different matter that Modi used his clout with BCCI and killed the ICL venture. This created a void in the minds of the Indian public which started with a liking for T20 league only to find that they were suddenly deprived of the same. Hence when the alternative came up as IPL they simply adopted it as an alter ego of ICL.

I am sure that BCCI and Modi would not like to be reminded that their brand IPL was a copycat of ICL and it was again Kapil Dev who was the icon behind ICL.

Let us therefore stop giving credit either to Modi or to BCCI for the IPL brand and leave it with the Indian fans who were impressed by the heroics of Kapil Dev and his contemporaries. The initial take off achieved by IPL 1 was also due to the carried over popularity of the Indian cricketers including Sachin, Saurav, Rahul ,VVS and Kumble besides the new generation Doni and Sehwag.

In the coming days the current generation of iconic players will fade out of IPL and it has to sustain only on the basis of the new generation players. If India continues to succeed in Cricket either at test level or or one day level or  T20 level then only the brand IPL will get nourishment. Otherwise the brand would be on the decline.

Now with the tained IPL 3, the decline in IPL brand will be accelerated if India does not succeed in this year’s T20 world cup. Hence the future of IPL brand is uncertain.

Both Modi and BCCI need to take responsibility for the tainting of the IPL brand. In fact by defining “Cricketainemnt” as the focus  of IPL, BCCI is taking a big risk. The foundation created on the basis of Cricket success has been diluted and the present image of IPL in the viewer’s mind is not the Cricket action but it is the vulgar dances of the Cheer Girls as well as the presence of  bollywood during the IPL parties. This culture is destroying the discipline in the cricket field and soon will have an adverse impact on the regular cricket matches in the test and one day arena.

IPL has thus not only tainted its own brand image but also created a dent in the Indian cricket in general. If this results in a couple of failures which coincides with the moving away of the currently well known players from IPL, then the IPL brand could suffer a severe beating.

Advertisers are unlikely to continue support unless the “Brand” reflects a “Desirable Personality”.  If the IPL personality is one of arrogance, cheating etc, the brands associated with the IPL will also suffer in association and they will be quick to retreat.

It is therefore necessary for BCCI to shed its complacency and ensure that the “Clean Image” of Cricket and “Cricket as a Game without the vulgar entertainement” is nurtured in the coming days to re-build the brand image. Hopefully Dhoni’s men will turn out a reasonable performance in the world cup to restore the faith of the Indian public in the Cricket as a game to be supported.

Naavi

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