29 March 2023 17:36


The Ashes: A rivalry fit enough for the present tech-age marketing!

Imagine a rivalry of over 100 years and still counting! Once in every two years, these rivals clash with all their grit, fierceness and passion to take home the ‘Ashes’. A legendary sporting rivalry dating back to 1888, a sporting rivalry so competitive that it passages good players into becoming great players and, one that is so heated that the so-called 'gentleman's game' becomes anything but gentle. The Ashes, the epic five-match Test Series between England and Australia, is not only one of the greatest sporting rivalries but is also considered the platinum standard of Test cricket.

This year, the 72nd edition of the series is not just entertaining but is also intense as well as gripping as both Australia and England are at par with each other having won 33 and 32 series respectively. Although, the first day was Australia’s as England put up a terrible show by wrapping up their first innings for a mere 147 runs. However, this is just the beginning as outstanding Australian players like Mitchell Starc, Steve Smith, Josh Hazelwood, Pat Cummins and David Warner along with some phenomenal English players like Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes have 4 more days to go! So, will it be England levelling the score or will the Ashes go down under?

Another milestone to reckon with would be the telecast of the Ashes in 4 languages for the first time in India. The series will be telecast on Sony SIX (English), Sony TEN 3 (Hindi) & Sony TEN 4 (Tamil & Telugu) for cricket fans to enjoy the grandeur of the rivalry in the language of their choice!

“Given that India has a massive cricket following, this would be a highly watched Series. I would say that this would be more relevant for the urban and Tier 1/2 fans, but that also will be quite significant. The Ashes continues to be one of the most-watched non-India series in India. The cricket enthusiasts who love the original cricket form and have possibly been overexposed to the shorter formats of cricket, will follow this series very closely,” Ajit Devraj, Managing Partner of Dentsu Impact talks about the impact that the Ashes can have on Indian cricket fans. Rammohan Sundaram, Country Head & Managing Partner of Integrated Media for DDB Mudra Group has a more pragmatic say, “The Ashes is the ultimate test of cricket between two commonwealth countries because of the history it has since the Bodyline series in 1932-33. The aura of that cricket led to some of the biggest battles till date. However, with the dawn of Indian Cricket and the rise of some fantastic series that India has and so much cricket that India plays, Ashes has taken a back seat due to the fatigue that would have set in making any non-India playing matches only for the die-hard fans of test cricket. This number therefore does not attract enough for marketers to put their money behind though you will see some brands use the opportunity for incremental reach and for the low cost of association to cricket, which otherwise does not exist.” This could surely be a point to ponder upon for other series not involving India. Even Manish Porwal, MD of Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions, seconds Rammohan’s point. “Cricket lovers in our country is a set which is too large to expect homogeneity. The fever runs differently across socio economical classes, communities, regions, states gender and ages. Unfortunately, however, a large set of us change from being viewers to a just ‘news informed’ set when it comes to non-Indian cricket, even if it is as big as the Ashes. So, the viewership numbers largely drop in India, when India or Indians are not playing, and Ashes is no different. The next day news is often enough for most,” explains Porwal.

B. Sridhar, Group Director of Innocean Worldwide Communications Pvt. Ltd. also agrees, “This is important only from the perspective of serious Cricket enthusiasts who follow cricket all around. This is a minority audience. It doesn’t do much to all other cricket viewers as they mostly consume India-centric cricket content. But a matter of debate is whether the Ashes are the platinum standard of Test Cricket at all, even for the serious Cricket enthusiasts. Leave aside the traditionalists, Australia versus India is arguably the modern-day equivalent of The Ashes. Nevertheless, the serious cricket fans will follow The Ashes as well as the South Africa vs India cricket series happening, quite a bit alongside The Ashes.” Seems the insights are as intriguing as the Ashes itself! “Since its inception, The Ashes has been one of the most important and exciting test series. While it is just played between two countries, cricket fans all across the world wait for it with great vigour and there are no two ways about that. Cricket fans in India, too, wait for this special clash of the Titans. For these cricket enthusiasts, it doesn’t matter if their national team is playing or not; what matters is the fierce battle between the two best cricket teams. The Ashes hold a special place in their hearts,” says a very positive Nitin Kamat, CMO of TAM India.

When quizzed about the monies that Indian advertisers would utilize to promote their brands, Kamat further explains, “The Ashes series in 2019 saw advertisers ranging from insurance aggregators like Policy Bazaar to Automobiles like Toyota and eCommerce companies like Flipkart, e-Learning like Byju’s, FMCG companies like Fogg Deodorants etc. This year, seeing the current advertising trends across various test matches, we are expecting brands to step up their advertising during the series. We should be seeing more Crypto companies along with E-Learning and Insurance companies advertising aggressively through the series.” Rammohan Sundaram also has similar views on the advertising during the Ashes series. “In my opinion, heavy advertisers on cricket will continue to be part of Ashes for incremental reach and to stay connected with those audience and in my opinion all the fantasy league companies will definitely be part of the mix. That in itself will be about 5 advertisers and then a few fintech and edu-tech companies will add to that mix. So, you can expect about 10-12 of them to be part of the advertiser list during Ashes,” he explains. Manish Porwal, on the other hand, has different views as he tells us “Advertisers don’t necessarily choose a particular series. They choose the expected numbers associated with it – viewership and costs and match it with their advertising seasonality. On non-India matches, they decide more basis if the sporting event falls in their calendar and pocket and then evaluate it as another opportunity. I see the cricket-based apps, sporting and new age/digital brands and brands targeting upmarket men to be advertisers for the series. Sometimes, channels also sell packages for these series with their larger sporting events.” B. Sridhar also supports Porwal’s views, “I don’t believe advertisers really gear up for The Ashes. They would mostly have brand presence on The Ashes as a value addition to large investments on India-centric sporting events. Given that mobile sports gaming apps, men’s deodorants, edu-tech and auto category brands align in a big way with sports, they are the ones dominating on the advertising front.” Even Ajit Devraj is of the same opinion as he explains, “The brands talking to the youth will be more aggressive I feel and the mix will be from the usual suspects in mobile, telecoms, edu-tech, insurance, gaming and FMCG.”

With the Ashes being telecast in 4 different languages on Sony Pictures Sports Network, there might be a better impact on advertising & viewership. Rammohan Sundaram says, “There definitely will be some impact but that wouldn’t result in a massive lift in terms of viewership. It is the endeavour of the channel to maximise its potential with all its available might but that doesn’t necessarily change consumer behaviour. It’s like saying just because there is enough visibility the product will sell. So, when India is not playing the product has already taken a hit which then can’t translate to consumption even when visibility is high.” Nitin Kamat is quite positive & describes it as a great opportunity for regional brands. “Cricket is a religion in India and marquee events like The Ashes will definitely gain the advertiser’s interest. With Sony telecasting the series in 4 languages, cricket enthusiasts all across the country will enjoy the matches in their preferred language. This surely will increase the viewership. The much-anticipated series will definitely attract more advertisers – not only the national brands but also regional brands.” Ajit Devraj also is equally optimistic on the multi lingual commentary of a foreign series in India. He says, “It will definitely have a bigger impact. In fact, this allows hyperlocal marketing for specific audiences in different geographies. Additionally, brands will now also have the opportunity to connect with their audiences more locally.” B. Sridhar shows a different perspective and explains, “Telecast of cricket in multiple languages has already become a norm for a while now. The only point is that a non-India series being telecast in multiple languages can make the game a bit more consumable for the cricket fans who would rather watch India-centric cricket. Hence, while I don’t think it will make much of a difference to overall viewership, this might be more like testing waters for the telecasting channel with non-India cricket.”

The media fraternity seems to be divided in choosing the winning side as Rammohan Sundaram and Nitin Kamat are supporting Australia, Manish Porwal and Ajit Devraj are rooting for England while B. Sridhar is just eager to watch some great high intensity cricketing action and is just neutral. Similarly, when it comes to choosing favourites, they love Australia’s David Warner, Steven Smith & Josh Hazelwood and from the English side they picked Joe Root, Ben Stokes & Jos Butler. Even though, it is considered the platinum standard of Test cricket, the Ashes series has had its interesting turn of events with a mix of ups and downs accompanied by an exceptional history. Out of the 330 Ashes Test matches played till date, Australians have won 134 while England have pocketed 106 wins and 90 of them ended in a draw.

Now, with the Ashes 2021-22 Series being telecast on Sony Pictures Sports Network for India to witness the rivalry, which side are you supporting?

Read 1299 times Last modified on Thursday, 09 December 2021 03:20
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Mohnish Modi

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