Being the official global partner of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003, LG Electronics' signing on the 14 captains of the participating teams to endorse the LG brand: expected. Signing on the 14 captains, yet not having them indulge in routine product-speak: most unexpected.
This second aspect is certainly one of the high points of LG Electronics' multimedia World Cup 2003 campaign, 'Cricket First', which went on air yesterday. True to the spirit of a statement such as 'Cricket First', the mammoth 22-commercial campaign is all about the 14 captains (and by logical extension, all cricketers and cricket lovers) putting cricket above everything - controversies, bitter rivalries, personal differences, narrow nationalism - by celebrating the game. So you have Kiwi skipper Stephen Fleming telling us how he'll "pay to watch Carl Hooper bat", and Saurav Ganguly admitting, "Nassir Hussain is a good captain."
Interestingly, in the process of putting 'cricket above everything', the 14 captains often end up 'not endorsing LG' - at least not in the classical sense of the term - by choosing to put their cricket first. LG's way of telling the world that this World Cup, cricket is at a premium.
Sample these. An ad for one of LG's televisions has ex-cricketer and commentator Ravi Shastri (who has been LG's brand ambassador since 2002) tutoring South African captain Shaun Pollock on what to say about the product. Pollock simply nods and shrugs till Shastri informs us that Pollock would rather be out there practicing his 'late reverse swing'. Pollock agrees wholeheartedly, and Shastri, as the LG representative, simply asks him to go ahead… because "At LG, it's always cricket first." Ditto in an ad where Shastri gives Australian Ricky Ponting the option of either giving a testimonial for an LG refrigerator, or honing his batting. Ponting gives it a thought, punches Shastri lightly on the shoulder, says "Thanks, maite", and walks away.
"The convention would have been to say something to the effect that even cricketers put LG before everything," says KV Sridhar ('Pops'), executive creative director, Lowe, which created the campaign. "But then, without actually putting 'cricket first', we cannot be truthful to the thought, and the idea of 'Cricket First' would end up as empty words."
Of course, it's not as if the 14 captains are not backing the brand - their presence in the campaign is, in itself, tacit endorsement. And there are ads - like the ones for washing machines and air-conditioners - where the endorsers are seen 'interacting' with the brand. But it's one thing having a passive endorser in your ad, and another having the endorser praise the product in as many words. For clients, the temptation to ply the latter route can be irresistible, especially when they've shelled out Rs 4 crore just to sign on 14 endorsers and make 22 ads. Credit must go to LG for walking its talk.
"Putting cricket before everything - even before endorsing LG products - was actually part of the brief," reveals Ganesh Mahalingam, general manager - marketing, LG Electronics India. According to him, there were four important components clearly outlined in the brief. "The first was that LG has signed up the 14 captains, so the last thing we would want is to have the traditional song-and-dance around the product. Second, given the controversy surrounding the cricketers, LG wanted to own the game of cricket - and not the cricketers. The third aspect was to highlight the coming together of the best. The 14 captains are the all-rounders in their respective teams, and so is LG, the captain of the consumer durables and home appliances industry (which is why this campaign is also being termed the 'Captains of the World' campaign). And the fourth was to convey that LG has already won, because it has signed up all the 14 captains. Whosoever wins will, in any case, continue to feature in LG ads."
As far as Lowe was concerned, one of the challenges was the inevitable glut of cricket- and World Cup-related advertising that LG would have to contend with during the coming three to four months. "We realized that everybody would be using cricket as a platform," says Balki (R Balakrishnan), executive creative director, Lowe. "How could LG come across as different from the rest, and as a global leader that celebrates cricket? So we said, let's say that here's a company that does not cheaply cash in on cricket. LG is a company that understands that this game is above everything. Also, as LG has been investing a lot on cricket, 'Cricket First' is the right stance. And significantly, even Indian consumers will be putting cricket above every facet of life, so why shouldn't a company do so?"
One important criterion for taking the 'non-testimonial' route was the cricketers. "During the World Cup, we will have a lot of cricketers who will be behaving like models," Balki says. "They will be asked to do all sorts of things. But what is the one thing that people expect them to do? They expect cricketers to talk and play cricket. This campaign is true to that expectation."
LG is certainly banking on this campaign to help it achieve a targeted turnover of Rs 4,500 crore next year (the company is estimating a turnover of Rs 3,000 crore this calendar year). Towards that end, the company is planning to spend Rs 40-to-50 crore in the next three to four months on World Cup-related marketing exercises, which include top-of-the-line, below-the-line and promotional activities. "Our sole objective is to dominate the cricket mindspace in India, as well as abroad," observes Mahalingam.
Domination might happen, but not without a challenge. In an interesting corollary to LG's 'Cricket First' campaign, Korean rival Samsung India (which has already been pitching itself as the 'Official Sponsor of DigitAll passion') retorted with a press ad yesterday that proclaimed, 'With Team Samsung it's India First.' Ostensibly created to wish the Indian team success during the upcoming tour to New Zealand, the copy, however, leaves no one in doubt. 'Team Samsung plays for India's glory. Cricket is just a means to that end. Here's wishing them good luck in New Zealand.'
The battle lines have been drawn, for sure. Â© 2002 agencyfaqs!