Corporates play the waiting game on cricket fracas

NEW DELHI: The corporates, which have signed on Indian cricketers and may have to review their agreements with the players depending on the final outcome of the ICC-BCCI-cricketers endorsement controversy, are playing a wait and watch game.

"I cannot make any specific comments at the moment. We are waiting and watching the final outcome of the case and the stand that cricketers take. But we do stand by the cricketers' decisions," Venu Srinivasan, chairman and managing director of TVS Motor told indiantelevision today over phone from Chennai.

When asked specifically, whether TVS will review its contract with Sachin Tendulkar, signed on to endorse the TVS Victor motorbike, Srinivasan shot back: "How can I say anything now? We'll wait for the cricketers to take a final decision and only then can chart out our future course of action."

TVS Motor is one of the many companies that may have to review its agreement with Tendulkar if the master blaster agrees to the ICC's diktat of not endorsing any product from companies other than the global partners for a month before and after an ICC tournament. This, the ICC says has been done to safeguard the interest of its global partners against ambush marketing.

TVS is in direct competition with one of the official global partners of ICC, Hero Honda.

Though Samsung India Electronics Ltd (SIEL) yesterday announced the launch of its sports marketing programme and association with cricket through the 'Team Samsung' campaign that has already surfaced on various TV channels, the company is keeping its fingers crossed as the promotion involves a group of seven celebrity cricketers endorsing the entire array of Samsung products.

"When we signed on the cricketers in March we had no idea of the controversy, neither did probably the BCCI and ICC. Now that we are about to launch our Team Samsung campaign this controversy is threatening to grow bigger having started sometime last month. We will have to see what action the cricketers take before taking one, if necessary," Ruchika Batra, the Delhi-based spokesperson for SIEL told

The seven cricketers who are part of 'Team Samsung' and will be seen in the company's advertising campaigns include Rahul Dravid, V Sehwag, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Javagal Srinath, Dinesh Mongia and Ajay Ratra.

Except Srinath, all the others are part of the Indian team now that has refused to sign on the dotted line on the ICC diktat.

The one-year agreement with Samsung gets over in March 2003 and is renewable. "We support the players and will honour their decision, but as a company we cannot take a decision now. If it is necessary, after the outcome of the controversy is clear, we may take a decision," Batra added.

Some of the Samsung products like TV sets and washing machines are in direct competition to the similar products of another official global partner of ICC, LG India.

"The idea behind 'Team Samsung' is to leverage the strength of the entire group of players, rather than a single individual. Furthermore, 'Team Samsung' signals the strengthening of Samsung's association with cricket, which until now has been confined to the ESPN Star Sports Cricket Ratings and in-stadia ground panel advertising during cricket matches. We plan to take our association with cricket much beyond the World Cup," R Zutshi, V-P sales, Samsung India, said in an official statement.

Samsung India plans to leverage 'Team Samsung' in all its advertising, both print and broadcast media, in its POP/POS material, through road shows with the players and by carrying out dealer incentive programme and convention.

"We have earmarked an advertising spend of Rs 35 Crores (Rs 350 million) on Cricket in the second half of Y2002 and Quarter 1, 2003. We expect to sell around 700,000 CTVs in the period July 2002 to March 2003 as a result of our marketing initiatives in this period," Zutshi said.

Samsung India is also involved with other sports and is the Official Sponsor of the Indian Team to the forthcoming Busan Asian Games. Globally, Samsung's emphasis on sports sponsorship commenced in 1986 with the Seoul Asian Games. Samsung has also supported the 1988 Seoul Olympics, 1990 Beijing Asian Games, 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games and was the Official Partner for the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. In the Year 2000, Samsung Electronics was the Wireless Communications Partner to the Sydney Olympic Games. Samsung in India sponsored the Indian Team to the 1998 Asian Games as well as the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

But the company, which probably can take the cake for ambush marketing (remember the "There's nothing official about it" line?), Pepsi India, is sitting pretty this time and also, may be smiling.

Being one of the global partners of the ICC, Pepsi ads featuring cricketers can run even while ICC tournaments are on and may also feature those cricketers who ultimately may not sign up and stand up for their personal rights.

Contacted today, Pepsi Foods India Pvt Ltd maintained that the company is no way associated with the present controversy.

When quizzed further on the issue, an official spokesperson for Pepsi Foods told indiantelevision: "We are passionately committed to cricket. We support the players, the BCCI and the ICC. We are confident that between them, they'll resolve all the issues."

The cricketers who have signed up with Pepsi include Tendulkar, Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, Harbhajan Singh, Mohammed. Kaif, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar.

What does Coke, a victim of Pepsi India's ambush marketing during a cricket World Cup tournament held in India, Pakistan and Sri lanka have to say on the ongoing controversy?

Coca Cola India need not worry much too. They have Sehwag and are content to keep a low profile on the issue at the moment. The company's director, corporate communication and a former business journalist Nantoo Bannerjee, today said: "The matter is still being discussed and at this point of time we do not want to get involved in any controversy."

Keeping a low profile also are those companies that manage the cricketers. Asked about the whole issue today, Lokesh Sharma of 21st Century Media said: "What can we say? It is between the cricketers and the ICC and they have to take a decision." 21st Century Media handles the business interests of Dravid and Kaif.

But with no end in sight at the moment endorsement soap opera can easily rival any of those dished out by the soap queen Ektaa Kapoor.

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