The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Skittled out of telly too
- Advertisers pull out commercials featuring cricketers

Mumbai, March 29: Out of sight for fans. Out of mind for advertisers.

The Men in Blue may have escaped the wrath of their supporters as they arrived home in the dead of night, but they can’t get away from the anger of the big brands.

Advertisers who had gone in for massive investments for ad slots on television are now washing their hands of Team India. While Pepsico has pulled out its Ladega to Jeetega campaign that featured Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and M.S. Dhoni, almost all ads featuring cricket or cricketers seem to have gone off the air.

But the biggest axe seems to have fallen on the big three — Sachin, Dravid and Sourav Ganguly.

ITC, which signed a deal for the Sunfeast Fit-kit “Ab har ghar mein Sachin” ad under which the cricketer became a “co-creator” of the brand and also received a part of the royalty on each packet sold, now seems to be doing a rethink.

“We have had a series of meetings on whether to continue with the ad. There are serious thoughts on whether our other endorser, Shah Rukh Khan, should promote the product,” said a source in ITC.

Celebrity endorsement firms agree with the tough measures.

“Brands will get more and more stringent with their contracts with players, and rightly so. There will be a definite performance clause involved and the sportsmen, however big they may be, will have to guarantee some returns to the brands through their performance. A lot of money has been lost already,” said Vinita Bangad, vice-president, Celebrity Management Service, Percept.

Her client, Sourav, who cracked a couple of half-centuries but failed in the crucial Lanka match, hasn’t also escaped advertiser wrath.

Bangad confirmed that Puma, which was planning a campaign with Sourav following his sensational comeback, has shelved the plan.

“We had done a photo-shoot with Ganguly with our products before the World Cup and were planning a huge countrywide campaign. But now, we have decided to cut costs and restrict the campaign to a short one,” said a Puma official.

The worst hit, however, seems to be Dravid. Industry sources said the captain could lose much more than captaincy.

“Even in the unlikely event of his being made a captain again, Dravid may not be able to enhance his brand value,” said an expert.

In Delhi, consumer durables major Videocon said it would pull out advertisements featuring Dravid and Dhoni to save damage to the brand.

“We have not withdrawn the contract with Dhoni and Dravid, but we have decided to take a backseat and withdraw some of the advertisement insertions featuring the cricketers considering the public hue and cry against them,” Videocon industries chairman and managing director Venugopal Dhoot told PTI.

“The ad withdrawals will be for 3-4 days.... Till then the public sentiment will improve,” Dhoot said, adding that the company would continue to support the game in the long term.

A spokesperson for Genesis — the PR agency for Hutch, which has a contract with Dravid — however, said the telecom giant would remain unaffected by the Cup catastrophe.

“Hutch will not face any problems as their Chalo World Cup contest with Dravid was a pre-World Cup one. Since it ended before the Cup started, they are not worried,” she said.

But Hutch said it would pull out the campaign it had planned with Dravid’s cut-outs.

Adman Suhel Seth said the Cup debacle would lead to a “rethink about the cult-status” that cricket enjoys among advertisers. Like the stock market, cricket as well as cricketers could see a “correction in valuations and pricing”, he added.

Reebok, for example, has decided to replace its campaign featuring Yuvraj and Harbhajan Singh with personalities from other sports.

But its competitor, Nike, isn’t worried.

“We have no ads featuring cricketers. In fact, our only ad running currently on television features common men and their passion for cricket. I believe it has been well accepted and we see no reason to pull it out,” said Keerthana Ramakrishnan, a spokesperson.

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