August 07, 2008

How do you solve a brand like Viru?

We rue no more: This could be a temporary phase. It could last no more than a few days. Till the next innings, the next series, the next time India collapses and Virender Sehwag doesn’t do his bit with one of those big hundreds.

Not only that. While failing to score an utterly irresponsible test hundred, he may also play one of those audacious non-hooks that cause wads to be flashed in parliament.

Now Sehwag is no parliamentarian. And somehow he has never won the collective vote of the Indian mind, heart or press. Press will stop for cattle on the roads, but if ever Sehwag scores a triple hundred in the wrong time zone, expect the morning papers to only print his score at lunch. That is, if he made that hundred before lunch –like he’s been promising for ages.

Yet it is now clear that Sehwag not only merits more attention, he demands it, at least in cricketing circles – while this may not always include the mainstream media, advertisers or the girl brigade, being a niche brand has its advantages.

Canny advertisers will pick Sehwag before he falls into someone else’s lap. To think that his last ad casting of any note was Coke’s “Sehwag ke thande funde”(Sehwag’s cool rules) from another lifetime, shows how myopic the moneybags have been. If Sehwag’s appeal lies in nonchalant cool, more so in the North, then how did so many talcum powders, air conditioners, itch guards, give him the miss. Specially itch guards, which brings us to -

Sachin Tendulkar, the boy who always had an itch to scratch at the crease. He sold everything, even stuff that didn’t sell. To delve into Tendulkar’s brandscape is a complete thesis in itself. Sehwag took off as Sachin’s twin, and together they frolicked in the Boost commercial - cricket picnic on hanging rock. That was when Sachin was big, and Sehwag was to be the next big thing.

Moving on to Yuvraj Singh. Never a test regular but the fast food of Indian cricket. He had hair, a girlfriend and was plugged to the party circuit. He rocked as India rocked; more so with the new found knowhow that India did indeed rock. There was a never before brashness, Punjabi hip, “make way for the Indian” about him. It was cool to hang out with Yuvraj, even cooler to be associated with him. Yuvraj straddled two worlds, the play field and the dance floor. And he juggled both with élan. Yet Yuvraj was limited for obvious reasons, as was his cricket.

And then MS Dhoni was born. When, how, or from where are part of MSD lore now. And as he continues to play and not play, MSD’s legend grows, feeding on his every action, inaction. For starters he had more hair. Then he had more runs in a one-day innings than any wicket keeper. Then he became the top ranked ODI player, ODI captain, and before you knew it, everything started to happen, simultaneously. MSD was the “Hamara Bajaj” equivalent of a cricketer brand, and pulled it off with chutzpah. He even got away with a haircut.

No such luck for Sehwag. From the heir apparent to Rahul Dravid, he was soon hairless. Soon out of the team, out of the mind. Sehwag’s Mayur suiting ads also disappeared, and then the Twenty20 World Cup comeback – a few cameos later he was unfit for the finals. Next: a wild card entry for Australia. A new, improved Sehwag was back.

In a way Sehwag does with the bat what Yuvraj and Dhoni do in their ads. Yet the divide between perception and reality is huge – does anyone, off the field think Sehwag is cool?

Cool or not, he scores quicker than any cricketer on earth. And we’re not talking Little Miss Muffet 20s and 30s by Shahid Afridi here. We’re talking 200s, 300s, get the picture.

Surely some brands can enjoy a quickie with Sehwag: Quick Fix, Speed (high performance petrol), Fast Track watches. Basically brands that promise swiftness – how about Swift from Maruti Suzuki?

While this makes Sehwag somewhat one dimensional, it’s a definite start. The brand layers will come as savvy advertisers flesh the Viru Dada enigma out.

The makings of a brand are there. And the faster Sehwag’s people suss that out the better for Viru the cricketer. For, no amount of triple or double hundreds can secure his place in the squad. Fact is there are just too many sellable players in Indian cricket. And finally, that’s what adds fizz to a star player.

How do you solve a brand like Viru?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Viru?
A flibbertijibbet! A will-o'-the wisp! A clown!

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell him
Many a thing he ought to understand
But how do you make him stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand

Oh, how do you solve a brand like Viru?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?


Also read in the How do you solve series

29 comments:

Trideep said...

LIke him or hate him.. you cannot ignore Sehwag. However as u pointed out the ads have eluded him.. just like his hair has done. I am not sure whether he will get ads even now. His image is not like a Yuvi or Dhoni.. I doubt whether he can ever be a face of any brand!!!

Arun M said...

Goody good! Just a thought: Viru's losing on brands is the quintessential 'caught in 2 time-zones'- between 'youngistan's' Yuvi & MSD and the 'old order' - Sachin & Dada.

Naked Cricket said...

trideep - i'd sign him for adidas' impossible is nothing camapign, strong brand connect. he'll also work for an "impossible is something" campaign. a serious spoof. also can't overlook hair revival products that actually work.

Naked Cricket said...

arun m - middle age @29 has its pitfalls. think he'd work with srt's aviva life insurance ads; they can tweak the line to "Kal par NO control"

Straight Point said...

i some how agree with arun that he is tuck in time zone...neither senior nor junior...

but as far as he keep smashing 200s 300s i don't even mind in which ad he is appearing...

btw, dravid & sachin failed even today to a rookie...mendia has clobbered so much space in their mind that they seems to have forgotten everything...dont know where the experience of playing of so many years have disappeared...

Soulberry said...

I love it! But I don't care if admen don't line up for him. They are mean monsters anyway who simply use people. The goodwill Sehwag has and is showered with by his fans will see him attain plenty of success and prosperity, fame is assured through his deeds. He'll have more respect han many others at the end of the day...maybe a few 100 crores lesser but true respect and affection will more than make up the deficit.

Naked Cricket said...

sp - think the reasons are far more shallow, appearance driven, personality? Till a few months back he wasn't exactly kate moss either. now tho he's no less than bruce willis.
the exp of so many years has disappeared in msd's stopwatch, and it's ticking as we speak. even dk will tell u that.

Naked Cricket said...

sb - we are in a minority here.
like u said, msd will open with gg and srt in the odis.

sehwag's yr classic nowhere man, needs the media hype as much as vvs did once upon a time. how long can u play each game like it's yr last - even vvs can't do that anymore.

Soulberry said...

Wonderful ode to Sehwag...how do you pin a cloud indeed! r how do you hold a moonbeam in your hand...Gaurav, please take a bow yet again! (applause)

Naked Cricket said...

sb - "how do you solve a problem like maria" is the original. tampered with it, like we need to with our middle order.

Soulberry said...

I seek your permission to retrospectively allow your poem to be used with a graphic (I've already put it up with credit of course).

Naked Cricket said...

cheers sb! You’ll also have to seek permission from Rodgers and Hammerstein. Assure you it’ll be a long distance call. As the blogs are alive with the sound of (their) music.

Straight Point said...

next on naked cricket...

how to solve brand that once used to be

fab four?

Naked Cricket said...

sp -there's scope, instead of foreplay, be branded as four-not-play.

Soulberry said...

ha ha ha...that was funny Gaurav :)

Soulberry said...

Anybody know some good mumbo jumbo... to get India playing some really good cricket?

allpaddedup.com said...

public memory is short, and an ad-maker wants his ad to be aired for longer than 2-3 months at a stretch.

may be sehwag could sell memory-enhancers, beginning with a line from one of the pepsi commercials,

"hi, mein sehwag, mera 201* bhule toh nahi"

scorpicity said...

ha ha ha.. an another killer NC... you killed me for 10 minutes on sachin and itchguard!! LOL.. what an observation bro!!... am still over it!

Naked Cricket said...

sb -re: good mumbo jumbo
jumbo was bad, totally lost it today, far too many times with the team -looks like Lanka has got to him.

Naked Cricket said...

allpaddedup - wicked!
dada should dub for him tho.

Naked Cricket said...

cheers scorpi!
can almost hear REM'S "Everybody Hurts" with our team posing.

Soulberry said...

Kumble looks like the guy who needs itchguard these days. So jumpy our jumbo has become...Sehwag will never do that line...Gangs had to do it to brekthrough complete apathy and even hatred towards him. No onecan forget Sehwag...who can, if they've watched him play?

Sehwag plays like you and I used to play as kids stuck in a boring class with an earphone trickling commentary from the pocket transistor up through the sleeve and into our ears.

Or maybe like th strokes you and I played while unable to sleep the night before a cricketing fixture in our youth. At least I'd play every inconceivable stroke in the book in my imagination like Sehwag plays in reality.

Bus...kabhi kabhi thoda sa thandaa thandaa cool cool ho jaye to baat aur ban jaaye.

Soulberry said...

What a day!

Naked Cricket said...

yeah sb.
for once even the cricket paled. and so it should. as too the cricketers.

Soulberry said...

The next few days/ weeks will be interesting to observe. The overall failure of the fab4 has stirred the pot some...and Kumble's steady decline too. Wonder what kind of blend emerges from this stirring.

Naked Cricket said...

sb: yet again, after a hiding, the team will go into hiding!
jokes apart, the focus is off cricket and on to Abhinav, the olympics, and the greater good of sport.
The non-performers will surface mid Sept. Probably annonce some 100 man squad for a camp, keep us all hanging -then shortlist to 30, and then that final shapeless figure.

Soulberry said...

Nobody will geive them any lift for a while now. Better they do not open their mouths....Bindra has sewn them up.

Wonder who the next selectors will be? Much will depend upon them too...yeah, an exercise could be conducted just like the routine exercises the army conducts in the desert.

Naked Cricket said...

appears the same firm handles abhinav bindra, sehwag and ishant sharma.

A Bisht said...

I missed this post, and stumbled on it today.
I think without written rules we have agreed to disagree.

That apart I found the post very readable.