Cricket: business, not sport - Ad Club debate

MUMBAI: Former Test cricketer K Srikkanth's summation of the current state of cricket as a means of business and entertainment aptly described the mood at a panel discussion that had media bigwigs rubbing shoulders with cricketing celebrities and C&S channel heads on Thursday evening.

The Advertising Club Bombay had organised a panel discussion on marketing opportunities that advertisers could leverage for their brands by ensuring participation in the forthcoming World Cup cricket (WCC) 2003.

Panelists included SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta; Lodestar Media executive director Shashi Sinha; former Indian captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth, former India all rounder Mohinder Amarnath and The Times of India group sports editor Ayaz Memon. 

Memon set the tone for the discussion by stating that Destination India was the in thing as far as the International Cricket Council (ICC) was concerned. Dasgupta too pointed out that the ICC has recognized the power of the Indian audiences and has ensured that the timings of the matches coincide with the prime viewing time slots in India. He added that all the matches for the forthcoming WCC are slated for prime time viewing.

He followed it up with a presentation called "World Cup - Opportunities"; highlighting the reasons why SET felt that the World Cup was worth every penny of the humungous amount that it had invested. 

Memon lamented the fact that the performances of the Indian team in New Zealand were making shivers run down advertisers' spines. Lodestar Media's Sinha, however, placated the panel by reminding that amnesic Indian audiences were renowned for 'forgiving and forgetting'. 

Memon raised an apt point when he questioned the situation wherein too much money was chasing moderately talented Indian cricketers. Sinha claimed that cricket-mania had ensured that players created a persona that reaped rich benefits for them in the long run. 

A garrulous Srikkanth added zing to the discussions with his incisive analysis of the game and the probable reasons for its popularity. Srikkanth made a valid point when he mentioned that cricket was one game where all the constituents benefited; the Boards, players, channels, advertisers, viewers, shops and small businesses.

Srikkanth blasted the TRP ratings and urged the media planners to go by ' public feel.' In the same breath he emphatically stated that Extraaa Innings, a revolutionary concept, received a lot of flak from critics who resist any new change; but surpassed all expectations by generating high TRPs.

Dasgupta revealed that MAX would give 40 Indian brands a unique opportunity to make it big without getting bogged down by clutter. Sinha countered that media planners were aware of the power of cricket but had issues about the pricing of the cricket properties. He mentioned that the premium on cricket was linked to the frenzy and the weight of expectations from the unpredictable Indian team. He maintained that the key was to create a great impact at cost-effective rates. 

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