Vinay Kanchan
Guest Article

Some early Power Plays from the IPL

Our guest author delves into the IPL's multifaceted impact, from strategic gameplay to brand evolution, revealing insights beyond the cricketing spectacle.

Over the last 16 years, the IPL has become the nation’s most eagerly awaited event. However, restricting its influence to only exciting cricket, family and friend bonding moments and a great stage to showcase brands, is perhaps doing what unfolds in stadiums and on screens a huge disservice. 

The IPL also presents a live enactment of how different strategies can play out - all puns intended. 

It shows us in real time, if unorthodox tactics worked. It presents a visible stage to analyze, how differing backstories come to bear in the heat of the moment. It enables us to witness firsthand, the inspired thinking which can catalyze any sporting achievement. 

Along those lines, here are a few interesting stories which unfolded over the first few days. To be sure, “Picture abhi baki hain”. But, switching early on to these facets, might enable you to delve and discover some of your own. And that might help you chalk up some big hits in the boardroom. 

Reframing an age-old perception

For quite a while, India was considered as a country which could only produce quality spinners. The fame of the magical quartet in the seventies, and the surprising lack of any prospects in pace bowling early on, fed into this myth. Pace seemed to turn its heel at Indian borders.

But, over the last few years, India has seen a huge turnaround in this aspect. Bumrah, Shami, Siraj and the like have thrown open the doors to a true pace revolution. This IPL, the emergence of Mayank Yadav and Kuldeep Sen-to name just two further added fuel to the brightly burning fast bowling fire, warming up the cockles of Indian fans. 

Perceptions can get entrenched in stone. Like cruelly endowed childhood nicknames, they can be very difficult to shake off. Brands often languish under the aegis of past associations, which prevent them from adapting and exploiting current opportunities. Breaking the shackles of that image can take a lot of effort. But with the right attitude and tools, it is possible.

Take the case of the Big B-Amitabh Bachchan. Seen, across India, for most of the seventies and eighties, as the epitome of the ‘angry young man’, Bachchan managed to escape that persona and broaden his canvas of associations. Firstly, by anchoring KBC, and then with a host of different character roles on the silver screen. He showed explosive anger could make way for refined sophistication and more.  

Shepherding in an ‘impact’ player

Few had heard of Romario Shepherd, as he faced the twentieth over in the Mumbai Indians innings, against the Delhi Capitals. Six balls and 32 runs later, the entire Wankhede Stadium was chanting his name. He had arrived with little fanfare, but he left to the sound of deafening cheers. While he was not strictly an impact player in the truest sense of the term for that game, his impact was certainly unquestionable. This bolt from the blue had certainly delivered, beyond expectation, giving the opposition the blues. 

Often, especially with organizations with wide brand portfolios, there is an opportunity to assign someone the role of a ‘tactical warrior’. The brief for this brand might just be to disrupt something in the status quo. To emphatically change the conversation.

Perhaps shift the impetus gained by a rival. In the past, Coca-Cola often employed Sprite in that capacity. Allowing it to have pointed and irreverent takes, on whatever Pepsi and Mountain Dew were engaging in at that moment. Needless to say, that manoeuvre, endowed the entire company’s portfolio, with a bit of a fizzy edge. 

Taking advice from a ‘Maharaj’

Shubman Gill was on a rampage. He had hit the first two balls from R Ashwin’s over for boundaries. The bowler was under pressure. At that moment, his teammate and fellow spinner Keshav Maharaj, ran in from the boundary and whispered a few words in his colleague’s ears. The next ball from Ashwin was wide outside the off-stump. Gill, in his attacking mindset, chased it beyond his crease, and in his eagerness to get to it, found himself stranded outside and duly stumped. The conversation between the two spinners had served up a metaphorical googly. 

There seems to be a rigid framework in many organisations when it comes to the matter of seeking counsel or wisdom. Usually, leaders are looked up to at such moments. There’s no denying there’s merit in that. But, talking to someone, who might have been in the exact same predicament, always has the potential of uncovering some truly insightful pieces of intelligence.

That kind of experience sharing should always be designation agnostic and has to be made easily available. Because, in every sense of the term, it can prove to be truly invaluable. There might be official captains, but in that instant, a person who has walked the same path before is nothing less than a King. 

Stretching the influence of a legacy mega brand

Whenever the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) are on the field, an interesting thing happens. The crowd just goes berserk, and when MS Dhoni does simply anything collect the ball with a bit of panache. That’s the umbilical connection between, not just CSK fans but also Indian ones, with MSD. So much so, that even after nearly five years of hanging up his national jersey, the man continues to be a country-wide phenomenon. And every time he turns out in the yellow of CSK, he is certainly adding a golden hue to its brand equity. 

Great brands are extremely rare. They take an immense amount of time, effort and resources to create. Inevitably, over the years, they can fade. But, that does not mean they do not still have a magnetic presence. In fact, the emotions associated with them, tend to grow even stronger as the years roll by. Consumers tend to shower them with even more love.

Because they have wonderful nostalgic memories around these brands, veritable treasures in themselves. Think brands like Parle-G, Colgate Dental Cream, Bajaj Chetak, Nokia 3310, Rasna and some others.

In this era of brand rationalization, the temptation is always to retire legacy brands. However, the goodwill these enjoy, are things the ‘new kids on the block’ might have a really hard time matching up to. And that realization should always ensure their place on the team portfolio, for as long as possible.

To conclude, the IPL presents an excellent avenue, not just for some fun downtime, but also, for the truly discerning, an ‘out of the box’ stimulus for the challenges they might be grappling with. That ‘out of the box’ reference is important. Because, like Suryakumar Yadav, it is when we move beyond the confines of our crease and seek succour in the unconventional, that we might find the greatest rewards. 

(Our guest author, Vinay Kanchan is a brand storyteller, innovation catalyst, and the author of ‘Sportivity’, ‘Lessons from the Playground’ and ‘The Madness Starts at 9’)

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