Nike: When Team India and the nation 'bled' blue

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | April 05, 2011
Nike launched the 'Bleed Blue' initiative six months ago, in a show of solidarity towards the game of cricket. Now, the campaign has reached culmination with the 'Yards' ad, and after the World Cup win, the 'United by Blue' commercial. A look at what Nike is upto.

Nike and cricket go back to almost five years when the brand started seriously focussing on Team India and the game. The 'Traffic Jam' film was among its first advertising attempts on that theme.

"Some brands have nothing to do with the sport, and use it only as a great advertising platform. Cricket is a long-term holistic property for us, and the fit is rather natural, with Nike being a sports brand as well," says Sanjay Gangopadhyay, marketing director, Nike India.

Six months ago, on September 3, 2010, the 'Just do it' brand kickstarted it's 'Bleed Blue' campaign, which reached its logical conclusion with the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup on April 2, 2011. Bleed Blue stems from the truth that cricket is not just a sport, but more of a religion in India. There is tremendous passion involved in the game, and the campaign hopes to give an expression to that passion.

'Blood, sweat and blue' is the idea that came to JWT India, Nike's agency. While 'blood' and 'sweat' represent the hard work, grit and unwavering determination of the players, 'Blue' is an obvious take on the blue jerseys that Team India sports, and that these jerseys are an aspiration for every gully cricketer in India -- in other words, everyone aspires to be a Sachin Tendulkar or a Virender Sehwag.

"So, just like the men in blue (Team India), if you give your blood and sweat to the game, you will get to wear the glory of the Blue jersey," explains Senthil Kumar, executive creative director, JWT South. Thus emerged the concept of 'Bleed Blue', which soon found its way in the average cricket fan's regular vocabulary/parlance. People started tweeting about it on Twitter and conversing about it on social networking sites, and through SMSes.

"To play for India is a dream every cricket fan has, and in their own way, everyone is bleeding blue," says Gangopadhyay.

Just Doing It, Nike Style

As a concept, Bleed Blue can be interpreted by three sets of people: the first are aspiring cricket players from all walks of life, those who are passionate about the game. The second lot comprises those who may not play cricket, but support the Indian team and cheer for them. And, the third lot would be the 11 players themselves, whose passion for the game can be seen on the field, in every move they make.

And, bearing that in mind, Nike launched the Bleed Blue Pledge commercial (first released on Facebook), on March 24, while the World Cup matches were on.

Meshed with scenes of real match play, the Bleed Blue Pledge features cricket athletes such as Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, S Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir describing the tenets of their game and how they 'Bleed Blue'.

This piece of communication was followed up with 'Yards', a film that is a culmination of sorts of the six-month long Bleed Blue initiative. The film hopes to capture the essence of cricket played in the gulleys of India, as well as on the stadium, encapsulating how the street feeds off the game in the stadium, and vice versa. This is based on the insight that in India, the cricket that's played in the streets gives birth to the cricket played on the stadiums. In turn, dreams held by the streets are inspired by the realities of the arena. It is this reciprocal relationship that Bleed Blue and Yards (the word 'yards' is representative of the 22-yard pitch in a cricket match, be it on the street or the stadium) hope to capture. The attempt is to convey that the fervour and passion of the game continues even after the World Cup is over.

The 'Yards' commercial is a commentary on how big cricket is in India, and uses a visual whirlpool of 22-yard gulleys in India, including the cricket pitch in the stadium. It has been directed by Omri Cohen, while the music has been given by Dhruv Ganekar.

With the ICC Cricket World Cup win by Team India, Nike has launched an impromptu third ad film, titled 'United by Blue'. The ad captures Team India's historic tournament win by showcasing the passion of a country united through cricket and the realisation of a dream 28 years in the making. 'United By Blue' illustrates how the kids who play the game in their neighbourhoods celebrate the triumph with equal passion, as well as the national team athletes who have brought global prominence back to the world's greatest cricket nation. The spot premiered on Facebook and YouTube on April 4, while it shall be aired on television on April 6, 2011.

Not just television

Apart from these three TVCs, Nike undertook several on-ground and social media initiatives to promote the concept of Bleed Blue over the last few weeks. On-ground initiatives kickstarted in September with the 'handprint' activity. People were encouraged to dip their hands in blue paint and make imprints on a piece of cloth in a show of solidarity towards a movement of sorts called Bleed Blue. This activity was carried out across malls, schools, playgrounds, and training grounds.

Besides this, an application was developed online wherein people could have their own unique digital handprints made.

Besides that, several on-ground initiatives include making 50,000 cricket fans wear a uniform T-shirt in blue that says 'Bleed Blue', during a match in Kochi, which got coverage in the press as well.

Nike presently has more than one million fans on Facebook. The Nike page on Facebook is not just a score-sheet during matches, but in terms of content, provides videos, inside information on the players, the stories behind their jersey numbers, and allows an access to the team's training ground and dressing rooms through games and contests.

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