Team Samsung is in dire straits. Out of the twelve cricket stars that Korean electronics major Samsung had signed on as brand ambassadors amid much fanfare,
only seven have found their way in the team selected for the forthcoming tournaments - Videocon Cup, NatWest Challenge and the ICC Champions Trophy.
Even within the selected seven, while there's no question whatsoever over the inclusion of stars like Rahul Dravid, Virendra Sehwag, Irfan Khan, and perhaps also a Mohammed Kaif, the probability of spinners Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh bowling in tandem, match and match, is rare. Even Ashish Nehra hasn't really cemented his place in the playing eleven; his recurrent injury and Balaji's form will decide whether he will actually make it.
Therefore, it's a certainty that 'Team Samsung' will have a forlorn look in the coming contests. Of course, in theory, nothing stops the Korean major from signing up other players with the exception of captain Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh, who are current brand ambassadors of LG Electronics, a direct competitor.
Cricketers who have been associated with Samsung in the past and present include: Rahul Dravid, Virendra Sehwag, Irfan Khan, Mohammed Kaif, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra, Zaheer Khan, Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Mongia, Ajay Ratra and Javagal Srinath (now retired).
Leaving aside cricketers' form and their non-inclusion in the playing eleven, it's entirely another issue whether Samsung will ultimately get to use its 'Team Samsung' campaign featuring cricketers.
Remember, what happened during World Cup 2003? Samsung was caught in a bitter controversy with the International Cricket Council over its commercials. ICC alleged that Samsung - through its advertisements featuring Indian cricketers - was flouting contractual agreements with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), amounting to devaluing the rights secured by ICC's commercial partners.
Subsequently, Samsung had to withdraw all the advertisements in its 'Team Samsung' series, after ICC issued notices to the cricketers for continuing to feature in these commercials, despite the appellate body's directive.
Since then, the situation hasn't changed much for Samsung. Subrata Roy's Sahara group continues to be the overall sponsor of the Indian cricket team, while LG has the official global sponsorship rights of the ICC Champions Trophy 2004. So, any attempts of ambush marketing is guaranteed to meet with protests and lawyers' letters.
Officially, Samsung is holding its cards close to its chest. Essentially, the company is still keeping its options open on whether or not it will air its 'Team Samsung' commercials during match telecasts. Samsung's director (sales), R Zutshi declined to comment any further.
Even BCCI isn't saying much. Amrit Mathur, media director of the Indian cricket team for BCCI, says, "One hopes that what had happened last year won't happen again. The sponsors understand the commitment of the players, and there ought not to be any clash of interests. And, yes, there are certain provisions in the sponsorship contract which have to be taken into account by other advertisers."
Speaking of sponsors, it will be in LG's interest to ensure that no Indian cricketer is involved in Samsung's ambush marketing. However, senior executives of LG declined to spell out whether the company has requested ICC/BCCI to enforce a clamp-down on 'Team Samsung' ads. "If anything, everybody should be talking about Team India," quipped a senior LG source.
And, if Samsung does work around loopholes in the ICC contract, and instead of TVs and computer monitors, use products like mobile phones and release ads featuring cricketers, the commercials run the risk of not being a 'differentiator'. This is because already Sachin Tendulkar (appearing for AirTel), Virendra Sehwag (for Reliance) and Yuvraj (for LG) are seen in TVCs using cellphones. Thankfully, for Samsung, Rahul Dravid (Hutch) is not shown using one too.
For the record, ICC's contract with LG is limited to consumer durables/electronics and computer/computer peripherals, and does not include mobile phones. However, what could spoil the party for Samsung is the ICC clause that only official sponsors of ICC have rights till 2007 to use the images of cricketers during any ICC-sponsored tournament. © 2004 agencyfaqs!