21 April 2009

IPL: Opportunity lost

I love cricket, I really do. I love Test cricket - most people in non-test-playing-countries don't even understand how a sporting contest can last 5 days, but I love test cricket. (The memory of Rahul Dravid square-cutting for a boundary to win a test match for India in Australia will live with me forever).

And yet I'm no purist, I think 20-20 cricket is very cool.. Amazing entertainment.. Will be very good for cricket as a sport in the long term.

T20 is a sport. Make no mistake. It is not entertainment or a tamasha alone. It takes tremendous athleticism, strength, strategy, power, stamina, mental strength, intelligence, perseverance and other such essentials to be successful and a winner at a sport. I love the entertainment part of T20, the music, the flashy colours, the cheerleaders, the innovative rules and innovation.


The IPL has gone too far. The IPL had the opportunity to be the first major sports franchise created in the 2000s. As it is now, IPL is the first major marketing sports franchise of the 2000s.

Have a look at all the major respected and popular sports franchises around us. The football world cup, the olympics, the football leagues in Europe. Most of them have major sponsors and have tremendous money involved and yet when you watch the sport, brands are not in your face, players' clothes are not covered with them.

In football, the club strip has ONE sponsor logo on it and no more. For years, Barcelona FC didn't even have that because they didn't want to commercialise the club. Even now that they do its "Unicef" and they are not paid for it. Its that kind of approach that builds sanctity and loyalty for a club that lasts generations.

IPL teams have 4, 5 and in some cases 6 logos on their uniforms - its sickening to see. The players are walking billboards. I won't even get into the marketing effectiveness of such branding - that's a debate for another day and another blog-entry.

Marketing in the IPL is crass. It is overriding cricket and undermining it. It makes me ill.

Creating a break after every 10 overs is absurd. It breaks the momentum of the sport. What is even more absurd and hypocritical is for IPL authorities to say its not done for marketing reasons. Can one imagine a strategy break after every 15 minutes in football or hockey? I know its there in Basketball, American Football etc but that pretty much rests my case.

The approach to the IPL both for the organisers as well as the team owners seems to be to make as much money as quickly as possible. Its almost as if they don't believe that the IPL will last more than a few years and so its best to 'break-even' and make money NOW... Who knows if it will last?!

The Taj Mahal was built to last forever, the IPL is certainly not being built with any such noble intention or vision. If the IPL is successful over time and stands the test of time, it will not be because of the BCCI and Lalit Modi, it will be despite them.

Lalit Modi has famously said that IPL2 will redefine how a sports event is marketed for the whole world. At the moment its looking like by redefine he meant how NOT to market a sports event.

No comments: