Thursday, May 01, 2008

The branding of cricket entertainment by SRK

The IPL has been declared to be a big hit in India. And while its being credited for heralding a new dawn in the era of cricket (its Kerry Packer II but with more chops), you can sense a jostling among the owners to make sure their teams are front and center in the public eye.

While most of the concepts are lifted directly from any of America's massive and lucrative sports leagues like the NBA or NFL (as they should be - no point in reinventing business models), a unique twist that comes from being in the crucible of India applies to the business and the media hype. And its been interesting to watch Shahrukh Khan and how he is going about building the brand for his team: the somewhat amusingly named Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).

SRK is all over television tirelessly promoting his team, but importantly enough he's also positioning himself as the face of the IPL. This seems to be a deliberate strategy because what it does is it puts KKR at the forefront of all the generic IPL commercials and TV channel montages (along with SRK's mug to boot).

There is the KKR paraphernalia: music videos, CDs (with big names composing), flashy uniforms, an elaborate web site, standout promos and continuity commercials that can only be described as micro episodes (in which SRK shrewdly ties in a recent hit movie).

Then there is SRK's presence in each game. You'll see him cheering his team's successes but more importantly you'll see him trying to get the crowd engaged. He hands out his own private man of the match awards. He takes personal pictures of the crowds and puts them up on his web site. He projects himself as a tireless servant of cricket and his team as home base for quirky party animals.

So what is SRK trying to do?

Let's start by differentiating between the success of the team and that of a franchise. Sure a team's success depends on how its players perform on the field. And success brings in cash - via ticket sales and merchandise revenue. But no team wins constantly. And in bad times, the loyal fans keep the franchise afloat (Chicago Cubs, anyone?) Once the team is finalized, SRK has limited control over the success of the team. But he can still work on the franchise. Which he is doing by building out his fan base.

A number of major metros have teams. But that leaves large swathes of India that don't have a team to follow. As a disenfranchised fan, you have one of two choices: follow the team closest to your city (and possibly from your state) or find a connection with any team in the IPL and give it your loyalty. In the latter case, if you happen to be an SRK fan, KKR would be an easy choice. By transferring his brand to his cricket team, SRK is again ensuring a loyal fan base.

Whether this works or not remains to be seen - IPL is still working its way through the first season. But SRK is clearly leveraging his experience with the media and his own unique personality traits (he can be funny, earthy sophisticate, lucid and articulate) to collar attention.

Compare this to the blank stares thrown by Katrina Kaif during a Royal Challengers game or Akshay Kumar standing on the chair and giving everyone an impromptu Chippendale's performance during a Delhi Daredevils match. And you'll see why fans are likely to latch on to a more committed star and his team.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

SRK is a marketing genius. He is funny, witty and entertaining. I dont know how he stays so energetic all the time.

Mind Rush said...

Great idea to combine Bollywood film craze with cricket craze. Informative write-up, Aspi.

girlie girl said...

hey...along with great marketing, The Cubs have a very loyal fan following from not just Chicago (cough) me (cough) but all over the world!

Spruha said...
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Spruha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pitu said...

Wow how many Drifters are Chicagoans?

Sania said...

Not me! And I won't be a Chicagoan any time soon, alas.

Go Yankees?

girlie girl said...

Even non-chicagoans are Cubs fans!! I, however, am a Chicagoan!!

m said...

i hate sports all kinds

Pitu said...

wow girlie, I must be rly clueless. I have been a Chicagoan for 7 yrs now, and forget Cubs, I'm not a fan of any team.. hehe I hate sports, I LOVE cricket tho :-) esp because of my Sachhu!

Spruha said...
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Aspi said...

I never thought I'd say this: but its good to back where its cold.

I've been to several baseball games. In summer, Wrigley Park is ideal for taking a nap.

leera said...

I absolutely agree with your post Aspi.

Inspite of the campy commercials (except the eating of the ball which got a giggle out of me), SRK comes across as the most sincere owner with the best public relations strategy. Preity's 'umm I have always been a sporty person' interviews don't convince me. SRK is smart enough to admit to his somewhat cheesy appeal and go with it full reality show style, which the IPL is looking a lot like, TRP spiking 'sankat' and all.

Never Mind!! said...

One point I noticed and I think wasnt mentioned in the comments was that SRK is building his team around Kolkota and himself instead of hyping it around Ganguly. This I Think is a good idea because Ganguly who is past his prime will not be around for long and SRK doesnt want KKR brand success to depend on the teams success in cricket!

Aspi said...

Never Mind!!, good point. I think using Ganguly thusly is a losing proposition. But I think SRK is stuck with him. For him to come in and own a team in Kolkata and then try to whip up team spirit - he needed a home base icon. And Ganguly provided that.

I LUV IPL said...

I am sure you would like to express yourself at: www.iluvipl.com

anu g said...

I just got to read this very interesting post Aspi. So many kids I know went to see the Kolkata-Hyderabad match at Hyderabad just to catch a glimpse of SRK. They were terribly upset when he didnt turn up there. Some security issues I am told.
But both SRK and Preity come across as very earnest fans (they'd better be, after all the money they have invested) and the aam junta loves watching their superstars behaving like star-struck fans.
It will be interesting to see whom the filmi crowd will support today in the match between Kolkata and Mumbai at Mumbai.
Aspi, some more posts on IPL r welcome:).