Mumbai: A Pepsi TV spot aired during the just-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament saw cricketer Sreesanth seemingly intent on crushing the opposition: “Aur maidaan vich mein twaddi wicket ganna samajh ke kha jaunga” (literally, I’ll chew up your wicket on the pitch like sugar cane).
An ad for Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama ads has a runner victoriously sprinting ahead. Mountain Dew still fizzes on Darr ke aage jeet hai (there is victory beyond fear), as young rafters battle the elements.
Undeterred by volatile markets, TV spots are playing the winning theme louder than ever as a reflection of a nation whose time has come on the economic and cricket greens.
During the IPL matches, actor Hrithik Roshan and a child star set the screen on fire with a power-packed performance for the Mumbai Indians team with the baseline Duniya hila denge hum (We’ll rock the world). Kotak Bank Ltd batted on “The mind has more muscle” depicting the Kings XI Punjab team cricketer Yuvraj Singh. Such upbeat montages gained cadence during the IPL frenzy and will be seen more with the Beijing Olympics in August.
The big V: The rhetoric has a strong base and can be a lasting theme in advertisements.
Says Aloke Banerjee, CEO, Total Home Expressions, S Kumars Nationwide Ltd: “Ads these days display the kind of aggression that India’s feeling. We are on a roll as far as winning goes and are totally unapologetic about it.”
Advertising wears this gungho spirit, by extension, across categories: a spot for American Express card features actor Abhishek Bachchan with the tag line: “Every road to success is a passing lane. Membership drives you there”. Indian Oil’s print ads show a bunch of determined men at “XtraCare retail stations” ready to take on any challenge: Ekdum tez service ke liye hum tayyar hain (we’re ready for real fast service). Brands are projecting attitude and the winning spirit as a part of their DNA and the means are no longer as important as the goal at hand, believes Anil Nair, CEO (India), Law and Kenneth Worldwide. “The graceful opponent of the past is no longer there. It’s not about participation anymore, it is about winning. Brands are integrating these values as a part of their value proposition. They don’t talk about utility, as much as the competitive streak in them. A detergent brand says Dho dala (washed off) and a soft drinks brand says Darr ke aage jeet hai.”
Victory is often snatched, in advertising. A Bagpiper soda commercial, actually more of a surrogate for the whisky offering by the same name, shows actor Ajay Devgan snatching a bottle of soda from a contender.
Winning ambushes are inspired by cricket. “Cricket has, in fact, become a metaphor of life. So much so that even film-stars like Preity Zinta and Shah Rukh Khan are associated with the IPL,” says Nair.
If you have the will, anything’s possible, reckons K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India Pvt. Ltd. “Young people are optimistic about India’s prospects, fuelled by the booming job market, economic prosperity and our display in cricket. Hence, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group says Apun ka sapna (my dream) and Yeh India ka cricket hai, Bidu (this is Indian cricket, friend).”
Manish Bhatt, executive creative director Contract Advertising (India) Pvt. Ltd, believes that the “victory hook” is stronger as a sales pitch now. “Brands that have done it or are doing it are smart because they gauge the mood of the nation—the desire to win. After all, how long can the salesman talk about product utility alone?” he asks.
Among the many commercials that display victory or a will to succeed, Bhatt says that Pepsi’s Chahiye toh kuch bhi ho sakta hain (you can make it happen) spot scores for enduring strategy. While the sports handle is transient, the broader definition of victory—the winning spirit—adopted by savvy advertisers such as Pepsi is not. The victory rhetoric has a strong base and can be a lasting theme, says Sanjay Tripathy, marketing head of HDFC Standard Life Insurance Co. Ltd. Brands that wear winning confidence resonate well with all target groups, especially the youth, and perk up both brand image and sales in a competitive milieu.
Bhupal Ramnathkar, founder of Umbrella Advertising, has a word of caution for advertisers who invest in victory-themed ads where sportsmen play lead roles. “The audience loves them because of the way they play the game and hate them when they let them down with a bad performance,” he says. “So, respect that and exploit this accordingly.”