Prabhakar Mundkur
Guest Article

Is the ICC World Cup India’s Super Bowl?

Yes and no...

The other day I was having a casual discussion with some marketing experts on whether the ICC World Cup is our Super Bowl. Yes and No. The Super Bowl represents the most prestigious marketing event of the year. Which is why it draws so many specially made commercials and each has an aura around it. Everyone is watching the Super Bowl, so marketers almost think that they will be judged by the quality of their advertising. It is also a great place for peer comparison, so how good the advertising is, is a matter of company prestige as well.

Does the ICC World Cup come close in terms of marketing prestige? I am not so sure. Perhaps the IPL now is the most prestigious event of the year and while the ICC World Cup comes only once in four years because it is a team sport with several countries playing, interest quickly fizzles out if the home team doesn’t win. Until the Indian team kept winning, all you could see was Indians dominating the audience. Team wins become more important than the sport itself. A good indicator of this is how ticket prices dropped soon after India lost.

On the day India was playing New Zealand they were the hot favourites and ticket prices for the finals had reached £4000 (3.4 lakh approx). However, two days after the match, ticket prices fell to £1335 (1.14 lakhs approx). Clearly, the Indians which formed perhaps more than 85 per cent of the audience, had lost all interest in the finals, once again proving the point that the team was more important than the game. Surge pricing for sports can beat most Uber pricings hollow. The most expensive ticket for the Super Bowl this year was US $24,416 (16.73 lakh approx).

Indians losing interest in the World Cup after their loss to New Zealand is not unusual. Social psychologists refer to two kinds of reactions from sports fans. For those of you who might describe the Indian fans as fickle, their reactions are in line with global experience. BIRGing, which stands fot ‘Basking in Reflected Glory’ typically happens when the home team wins and people start to feel better about themselves. They will often say “we won”, that’s how closely they identify with the home team. Indian fans were BIRGing until New Zealand beat them. And the moment India lost, Indian fans were CORFing - “Cut-Off Reflected Failure”. This is when fans distance themselves from the home team. Facebook posts the day after the match reflected CORFing. Criticism, bashing Dhoni etc. were all elements of CORFing.

One brand - Coca-Cola - actually used BIRGing as an insight for their 2019 ICC World Cup commercial with - “Be the 12th man”. The ad has a simple insight - to be in the team, you don’t need to be a part of the team.

CORFing and BIRGing happen at the Super Bowl as well. This is evident when people use the third person and when Patriot fans say “They couldn’t stop Denver”. Of course, because the Super Bowl is just a four-hour game, including the break and advertising, the effects of BIRGing and CORFing don't last as long as the ICC World Cup, which is a six-week tournament.

The Super Bowl boasts of 48 per cent female viewership and in 2019, had an audience of 98.2 million people. The ICC Cricket World Cup was watched by 446 million people (cumulative reach) until match 39, for which data is available. Of that, 193 million were female viewers, which is a 43 per cent share and compares well with the female viewership of the Super Bowl.

And what about the advertising? How does Super Bowl advertising compare with ICC World Cup? Many marketing experts I spoke to felt that the advertising for the World Cup didn’t feel very special or at least, as special as the Super Bowl. While some ads were created especially for the World Cup, others were extensions of IPL campaigns. Certainly, ads had a lot of cricket celebrities, which I personally found different from Super Bowl campaigns. For example, the most-watched commercial for Super Bowl 2019 was the Stella Artois - “Change Up the Usual” - which had 48 million views across video platforms and was the most viewed ad online (Source: AcuityAds). And the celebrities were Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges. That means that cricketing events don’t necessarily need cricket stars to make great commercials, a useful point for advertisers to consider.

Is the ICC World Cup India’s Super Bowl?

Prabhakar Mundkur

David Warschawski, CEO and Founder of Warschawski, the integrated ad agency, said in a 2016 article in Adweek - “America has a love affair with Super Bowl advertising.” Would we say that we have a love affair with World Cup advertising? I am not so sure. Not yet, anyway. But we are in love with cricket and if the same passion was translated to its advertising, we might just push the bar a little higher from where it is now.

With the Star Re-imagine awards to reward creativity for ads aired during the IPL, advertisers might want to give the IPL a better shot than the World Cup.

(The author is a former adman and present-day brand strategy consultant).