The recently concluded second instalment of the PSL has been celebrated as a success for the nation. Many Pakistanis have taken pride in the tournament, the thrills it produced and the fact that international players participated and that some even went to Lahore for the final. PSL fever took the nation by storm; we were united in our support for different teams, embracing the tournament with that typical love of cricket that we possess.
I joined the party late. PSL fever did not seize me before the tournament started but I was aware of the action and the reactions of people – receiving an almost constant stream of updates on social media. However, while watching one of the playoff matches online, I was struck by the change in the way brands were being integrated. As a member of the marketing fraternity and a person who has worked as a media planner, I’ve always bemoaned the fact that our local brands opt for heavy exposure rather than creative execution or context. I’ve written about the difference between how local advertising, especially during cricket matches, seems to be slapped on to leverage the increased audience. In the rest of the world and even across the border in India, things are done with more finesse.
From the ZIC truck coming on screen for the 50-run celebration to the Qatar Airways High Flying Catch, there was a genuine effort for the message and brand association to be relevant to the event.
I can still recall one cricket programme which focused on the way technology is changing cricket; it was sponsored by Intel and called Intel Inside Cricket. Examples like this had been few and far between. Usually Pakistani brands were content to be an interruption in the form of a nauseating repeats of ads, or using L shaped DLS or scrolls that appeared on screen during the action. One praiseworthy attempt at context was the time during the World Cup, when Lipton played their message when a batsman got out. As he walked back, the scroll appeared with the contextual message of “He’s out, now back to the pavilion to enjoy a cup of Lipton tea”
When I was watching the PSL playoff match, I was pleasantly surprised and almost elated. It seemed that my long wait was over. Local brands and even international brands had integrated themselves into the action in very effective and powerful ways. From the ZIC truck coming on screen for the 50-run celebration to the Qatar Airways High Flying Catch, there was a genuine effort for the message and brand association to be relevant to the event.
A few days ago while on Aurora’s website, I turned to the Most Popular section and came across Sami Qahar’s article on the PSL from November 2015. Qahar discussed the prospects of the PSL before it began, and examined the scenario and the chances of the event kicking off well and having a long term future or not. He also touched upon the crucial need for brands to play a part and expounded the opportunities that existed for smart brands:
“Although the sporting side of such events is always important, behind all major sport events, there is a successful marketing campaign. From De Ghuma Ke to All in One Rhythm, sport events have to create a strong identity which becomes the reason why brands want to be associated with them. Seen from this perspective, it will be very tough for the PSL to become a commercial success in the first year. However, they can still set the stage for bigger tournaments to come if they play their cards well. The PCB needs to step outside the crease and take the challenge head-on. Meanwhile, let’s wait for our own ‘Zong Chowka’ or a ‘TCS Run Out’.”
If I had read this article when it was published, I might have been incredulous and sceptical about brands especially local ones in partnership with local agencies getting how to be subtle and contextual. Fortunately, this edition of the PSL has pleasantly surprised me and made me a fan of the smart advertising and brand integration that was on display.
No doubt these sophisticated methods required a lot of money and perhaps not all brands have the budget to carry them out. But smart marketers might persuade sports channels to prepare packages that offer less repetition in terms of frequency but more mileage in terms of impact. Whatever the case, I’m looking forward to the next instalment of the PSL; who knows I might even back a team to see what the tournament organisers and local marketers can deliver in terms of performance. I’m not going to make any predictions but I’m sure that PSL 3 will not run out of smart brand integration ideas.
Tyrone Tellis is a marketing professional working in Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org