Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What makes Tendulkar a brand to reckon with By Gavin Davids

As a brand ambassador, Sachin Tendulkar remains unrivalled in India. He was the first Indian cricketer, if not the first cricketer in the world, to achieve the status of a global brand ambassador. At the peak of his career, it was estimated that he was endorsing close to thirty brands at one time. As he celebrates twenty years in the game however, things have begun to change, now, brands that he was once indistinguishable from, such as Pepsi, have discarded him in favor of younger, more dynamic cricketers. From a marketing point of view, perhaps this was inevitable, as Tendulkar's image continue to evolve and grow, changing to adapt to what the public's perception.

Pepsi's disassociation with Tendulkar should come as no surprise, considering how they've always projected themselves as being a young, exciting and effervescent brand. With Tendulkar becoming more circumspect in his game, these qualities are hard to associate with him now. When he was the "young destroyer", his image dovetailed perfectly with Pepsi's desire to appeal to the sense of adventure emerging from the youth of middle class India.

Furthermore, with the advent of the Twenty20 revolution, and Tendulkar declining to play a major part in it, Pepsi would have been desperate to rope in a more contemporary face to sell their product. The generation of the 2000's hasn't seen the young Sachin, for them, he's "Mr. Reliable", there to provide a security blanket to the aggressive, more attacking players in Team India, he's a parent, not a peer.

Brand Tendulkar however, moves on, Sachin's new avatar opens up new opportunities for mature brands to associate themselves with Tendulkar, as seen by the rush to have his endorsement from brands like Royal Bank of Scotland, Aviva Life Insurance, VISA, Canon and Jaypee Cement. The low visibility and high prestige of these brands reflect his qualities of reliability, consistency, determination and drive.

RBS especially, took a very interesting approach to their association with him. The tag line for the campaign was "every now and again, a player appears on the scene, who changes the way the game is played". They project Tendulkar, not with willow in hand, but in a business setting. He's a professional, calming influence, is what the message implies.

Sachin's appearance not only underlines his professionalism and business acumen, but reflects well onto RBS, as a seasoned, global player arrives to provide a sense of direction. The decision to remove Sachin from his normal habitat and show him as businesslike, dressed in a suit, was taken after careful analysis of RBS messaging and the target audience.

This target audience represents the generation that grew up with Sachin, mid 20's to 30's, mature, confident and upwardly mobile, looking to get down to business, reflecting India in the post economic boom era. They don't need to see him on a cricket field, having been exposed to him almost all their lives, their association with him is immediate, and automatically relaxes them, "Sachin's here, it's going to be okay", is the mantra, a residue of the emotions felt when he's at the crease.

I Vinayak, the vice president of Jayaprakash Associates Limited, who was instrumental getting Tendulkar to endorse Jaypee Cements, told afaqs.com that, cement, being a mature product, needed a mature person to be associated with the brand. Sachin had stood the tests of time, and because of this, they had decided to get him on board. This further indicates the view of the general public, Sachin is now an institution, one to be relied on and trusted, a facet of his personality that mature brands love, as it buys them instant credibility from their viewers.

Most tellingly, Adidas, Tendulkar's major sponsor for the last decade, has indicated that they will continue to endorse him, even when he decides to retire. Ironically, this provides the biggest indication of the changing nature of his image. He's no longer the 'next big thing', he's arrived and his reputation is set in stone. Much like their endorsement of former football superstar, Zinedine Zidane and boxer Mohammed Ali, their association with Tendulkar is meant to transcend his sporting career, and ensure that the nostalgia of his achievements are tied inexorably with them, proving that brands may come and go, but Tendulkar's image will always remain constant.

Source: India Syndicate

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