Shreyas Kulkarni

Adidas’ tryst with the Indian cricket jersey

Sunil Gupta of Adidas and Fundamental CCO Pallavi Chakravarti shed light on the BTS of the jersey launch.

Adidas, a German sports apparel maker, in June 2023, hung three gigantic size Indian cricket team jerseys over the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, using the aid of computer-generated imagery (CGI).

In a country where cricket can rival many a religion, the jersey reveal by Adidas after it was appointed the Indian cricket team’s kit sponsor was important for two reasons.

One, it was the first time the national cricket team had gained a professional sports apparel maker as a kit sponsor after Adidas’ American rival Nike ended its contract with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the country's chief cricket body, in 2020.

Two, the stadium over which the new test, T20, and one-day international (ODI) jerseys made their first appearance was where India famously won the 2011 ICC 50-over Cricket World Cup, and 12 years later, India once again hosts world cricket’s biggest prize in October 2023.

Adidas’ tryst with the Indian cricket jersey

“… In India cricket is not just a sport but a source of national pride, and jerseys are physical representations of the same,” says Sunil Gupta, senior director, brand Adidas, India.

The brand has signed a five-year contract with the BCCI, starting June 2023, across the game’s three formats. It is the sole supplier for all match, training and travel wear for the BCCI including the men’s, women’s and youth teams.

Adidas’ tryst with the Indian cricket jersey
Adidas India/Twitter

Adidas’ most famous presence in the Indian cricket team circuit until now is its sponsorship deal with Rohit Sharma and before that Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador which later went on to inculde a bat sponsorship deal.

Following the jersey launch clip which on Instagram has racked up over 1.64 million likes as of June 8, 2023, a 78-second spot featuring some of India’s biggest cricket stars was released.

Adidas wanted to celebrate “the unrelenting passion for the Indian cricket team jersey for fans across the world” when it decided to hang the jerseys over the Wankhede using CGI drones, and it then took the simple insight of “What does this jersey mean to you?” and reached out to Fundamental, a creative agency born in 2023, to come up with an ad film.

“I distinctly remember a pithy line from the brief that said - Cricket is our religion,” says Pallavi Chakravarti, founder and chief creative officer, Fundamental. It was enough to make her smile “because that document didn’t spend time elaborating on what we all already know.”

The tangible brief, as per the CCO, was to launch the jersey in a memorable manner, it also presented an opportunity. “We have worshippers, not fans, we have demi-gods, not players, we have the game running through our veins, but for a country so steeped in cricket, we do not have jersey culture,” she remarks.

Adidas has therefore launched three different jersey variants across price points. The match jersey (Test, ODI, T20) will cost Rs 4,999. A replica ODI jersey is priced at Rs 2,999, and a fan jersey (ODI) will retail at Rs 999.

The brand, says Gupta, wants to ensure that every fan can support their team donning the official merchandise. “Through these multiple price points, we aim to revolutionise the jersey culture in India by making them affordable and accessible to every cricket fan in the country,” he says.

Adidas’ main rivals when it comes to jersey sales are the master/first copy sellers, often found outside stadiums during match days.

The new jerseys are available for sale on the brand's website and stores, but what has been in short supply for a while are commercials from the Indian cricket team’s kit sponsor. The last memorable one was from Nike, its first after bagging the kit sponsor rights, over a decade ago.

Gupta, speaking on the official jersey launch ad, says it “generated an overwhelming response with a very positive sentiment across social media and retail.” It was a 360-marketing campaign across digital, social, print, and OOH platforms.

The Own Your Stripes campaign, as per the Fundamental CCO, has a lot of fun digital content that will drop gradually - reactions to the jersey, unboxing, some interesting vignettes of players interacting with the jerseys - and of course the OOH and static leg of the campaign, already visible in many stores and publications soon.

Making a campaign around cricket in India is serious business because as Chakravarti puts it, “Cricket is everyone’s business where we come from.”

Fundamental wanted the idea to have a uniquely Adidas flavour to it, and when they brainstormed over ideas, “a theme emerged - the very complex and all but inexplicable relationship India and Indians have with cricket. What if the jersey were to embody this web of emotions? In fact, what if we were to simply try and express what the jersey means to people - players and fans alike?”

Chances are, she says, that words will not be enough. “And that’s how we landed at ‘Impossible to explain what we feel for it - but when we wear it, we feel impossible is nothing.’"

To dole out a sports commercial in India is easier said than done because the country does not have a legacy of such work which creative and brand folk can look back on for any kind of creative inspiration.

Chakravarti agrees to the lack of legacy but also feels odes to the sport have been done aplenty. “Voiceovers in deep baritones and tales of grit and passion and sweat and sacrifice - we didn’t want to write yet another essay on cricket. We wanted to make sense to anyone who plays it, watches it, loves it,” remarks the Fundamental CCO.

She was more concerned about getting the ad right because when you’re making an ad about cricket, it better touch the right chord. “Brickbats can come as easily as bouquets when one is putting something out there that people are so very emotional about.”

Fundamental wanted to, through the campaign, “say something that hasn’t been said before, say it in an ownable by Adidas way, and say something that will resonate far and wide and make people desire the subject of the campaign - the jersey,” she states.

India is playing against Australia in the finals of the World Test Championship in England right now. Winning it will ensure Adidas' jersey launch resonates far and wide.

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