IPL or Elections 2019: Which game will marketers win?

It's time for the big boys and big bucks to come out, as two ultimate eyeball-grabbing events take the stage

N Chandramouli
Published: 02, Apr 2019
A police officer looks through a pair of binoculars during the "United India" rally attended by the leaders of India's main opposition parties ahead of the general election, in Kolkata, India, January 19, 2019. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri - RC1A22AD8FA0
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

People love games. They like to see the desperate struggles. They celebrate with the winners, and cry with the losers. The struggle of the game gets personified in the individual. Each victory is personal, each loss equally devastating. Games are an extension of an individuals’ hopes, aspirations and tussles, vicariously lived through the contest, making each small move in the game intensely intimate. The ancient Romans used ‘bread and circuses’ to devastating effect, giving the people what they want most—food in the stomachs and blood-and-gore entertainment for their minds—keeping them distracted and engaged despite the many pressing issues. Not untrue of today: Most campaigners, of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the elections, know this fact quite well, and use their breads with the adeptness of Caesar.

Though the bets are still on, the General Elections of 2019 seems a clear leader in this race. No offence IPL, but elections are a much rarer commodity, so it is only natural. One game has 22 players fighting for a cup, while the other has 545 cups, and the country is at stake. So, take your pick.

Considering so much brouhaha has already been built-up on the election runway, the IPL does not quite match up. So I would be surprised if marketers hadn’t placed their bets on the bigger game, a course being charted for the next five years. Unless, of course, it portents to leave a more indelible and permanent mark etched in our history.

Naturally, we must ask the question why it matters where marketers put their money. Like the the age-old adage goes, you go where the money flows. The advertising buck is a rare commodity, spent with thrift, expert calculation and care. So if marketers have put their rupee behind Elections 2019, it is only right that the people do no differently.

However, marketers don’t have it that easy either. Anyone with a budget will be out to peddle their merchandise, and in this market melee, it is likely that each one screams out their lungs and wallets to get the attention of the excited audiences. Some will be emotional, some funny, others will bring contexts in line with the theatrics played on stage, and a few will make ‘irresistible’ offers to onlookers. There will also be those who will step out-of-line to engage in shout-you-down matches, in desperation for attention. With eager bosses peering down the perspiring marketers' shoulders, all the spend-ROI claims will be put to this test-by-scorching-fire.

There will be the big boys with the big bucks, who will dominate bits and bytes. Tea and tyres, moisturizers and mobiles, salt and sanitary-ware, will jostle to acquire heart-space.

The middle-weights, who took the tough decision of participating in this arduous contest, saving up on earlier budgets to test chance in these two prizefights, will be nail-bitingly looking at their sales graphs with every ad and campaign played. Unfortunately, most of these will not even register a clink in their till boxes. However, amongst these underdogs will be a few creatively inclined—risk takers who will try the untested, and just by use of creativity may emerge with a brimming cash register.

Then there are the bantam weights, those who scrounged their last penny to be in this contest. Light, agile and oozing chutzpah. A select few of these brands will venture bravely into this very new world, where perception matters more than the product, where not buying, but buying into counts for more. For these brands, just being a part of the journey will be a victory.

The most important aspect that audiences must be aware of when these sellers vend, is not to be taken in by just the communication, for, the product or service too must match the promise made. Not unlike what audiences must do when the election aspirants tout their promises. And, if marketers are putting their money behind these all-important 545 cups, sheer logic dictates that so must every one of us.

The author is CEO at TRA Research

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