The tournament has some major alcobev names, including Bira91, Royal Stag, Jacob's Creek, Pernod Ricard India, Kingfisher, Black & White, and Diageo associated with it.
After staying away from the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the summer, alcohol brands have rekindled their association with cricket through the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. The upcoming season, commencing on October 5, features sponsorship from major alcobev names. Bira91, Royal Stag and Jacob's Creek have partnered directly with ICC. Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard India, Kingfisher, Black & White, and Diageo are sponsors for the broadcaster Disney Star.
These brands, while ostensibly promoting their merchandise or packaged drinking water, are using these avenues as surrogates for their alcoholic beverages.
Surrogate advertising is no longer confined to conventional TVCs for glassware, soda, and music CDs. Now, it extends to include even the brands’ non-alcoholic beverage offerings, such as 0.0% alcohol beer and ale. These products are presented in traditional alcohol bottles, making them scarcely distinguishable from their alcoholic counterparts. This subtle approach allows brands to convey their intended message discreetly. They also make their presence felt through perimeter boards on the boundaries and banner ads during live streaming.
Seagram's Royal Stag has launched an immersive AI-led fan experience ‘A billion films for a billion fans'. With a selfie and a voice sample, the campaign uses the power of generative AI technology and machine learning, to create a platform that enables each fan to feature themselves as part of the Royal Stag Live It Large star cast. Each fan can create a personalised edit of the film.
Its campaign features team captain Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, and Surya Kumar Yadav. In one of the communication posters, Sharma's right hand forms the silhouette of a glass and between the two fingers the brand has placed the word "Large humaara hai". Now, on a very subliminal level, the positioning of the fingers and the word "Large" are a nod to a glass of whisky. Further, the Royal Stag tagline itself says "Its our life. We live it large".
Sandeep Goyal, managing director, Rediffusion, who has been crusading against misuse of surrogate advertising by liquor brands for many years, condemns these advertising tactics as deception and fraud.
"Although there are existing guidelines in place, they are routinely disregarded, constituting clear violations of the law. The government, the broadcaster, FSSAI, and ASCI appear to turn a blind eye to these infractions, allowing them to persist. These ads are clearly illegal," he says.
For alcohol brands, cricket serves as an ideal platform due to its ability to reach a broad audience and the substantial budgets at their disposal. Goyal says, "Alcohol and tobacco, boasting the world's wealthiest and most influential lobbies, find it effortless to manipulate the system. Unless the government takes decisive action by implementing stricter laws and guidelines, this problem will persist."
Apart from legality, Naresh Gupta, co-founder and managing partner, Bang in the Middle, also points to the concern of morality. "If we could effectively implement a complete ban on tobacco ads, it is not impossible to implement it for alcohol. But these brands have the money to figure out loopholes in the law. And authorities have chosen to look the other way," he says.
Though the IPL was also an attractive vehicle for surrogate advertising, it was largely for gaming and pan masala brands. The two categories emerged as the leading advertiser categories on TV during the first seven matches, capturing a 34% ad volume share, as per TAM Media Research.
In June 2022, the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) banned surrogate advertising with the introduction of a new set of guidelines to curb misleading advertisements. Violators stand to face a penalty of Rs 10 lakh for the first offence and a Rs 50 lakh fine for subsequent offences.
Liquor advertising has been banned in the country since 1995. However liquor brands continue to advertise through channels such as music CDs, packaged water and non-alcoholic beverages.
ICC's other partners for the World Cup include MRF Tyres, Booking.com, IndusInd Bank, Mastercard, Aramco, Emirates, Polycab, ThumsUp, Upstox, Nissan, Nium, Near, DP World, OPPO, Dream11, Fancraze and Tyka. Disney Star has already onboarded 21 sponsors, including, Phone Pe, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd, Dream 11, Hindustan Unilever, Coca-Cola, Havells, IndusInd Bank, Pernod Ricard India, Booking.com, Peter England, Kingfisher Packaged Drinking Water, Mondelez, Emirates, Diageo, Jindal Panther, MRF Tyres, LendingKart, Haier appliances, Herbalife, BPCL and AMFI.