Advertising and the cricket World Cup
World Cup fever is at its height in Pakistan and with this weekend’s Pakistani win over Australia, there seems to be some hope that the Pakistani team may not disappoint us again. Most cricketing nations have prepared campaigns that support their teams no matter what. They have sent them off truly hoping and praying that they will come back with the coveted World Cup.
Pakistan is a different story all together. Cricket has become so closely associated with scandal in Pakistan that marketers are not sure what to do. Brands that use cricket celebrities as brand ambassadors are in a very risky position. What do they brief their agencies to do? Prepare campaigns with cricketers pasted all over them even at the risk that these cricketers may be convicted for some kind of fraud or be sent home amidst a cloud of scandal or defeat? Most Pakistani brand marketers have learned from their past mistakes and this is perhaps the first World Cup where most brands have not used any cricketer despite having them signed on as brand ambassadors.
Pepsi, which usually makes full use of the celebrities on its panel, chose to use a pop star Ali Zafar for their cricket World Cup campaign. And when Pakistan lost a match, we saw ads in dailies with an unknown face with the headline (in Urdu) “I told you you should have taken me to the World Cup.” Other brands like Servis, which my agency handles, chose to go ahead with their brand ambassador for their brand Cheetah (which is Urdu for ‘leopard’), but tried to show him as a sporting celebrity as opposed to specifically a cricketing one. Yesterday’s newspapers had a victory ad placed that read “A kangaroo is no match for a Cheetah.”
This World Cup, agencies have had to develop campaigns for both wins and losses and most have unfortunately worked harder on the losses campaign because we have all become so cynical about our cricket, once the pride of the nation. Let’s see if our team continues to pleasantly surprise us all.