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Brand World Cup and unpleasant realities

The World Cup is at a touching distance and, understandably so, is increasingly becoming the only sports news of the day. Pradeep Magazine writes.

columns Updated: Feb 07, 2011 01:10 IST
Pradeep Magazine

The World Cup is at a touching distance and, understandably so, is increasingly becoming the only sports news of the day. The build-up to the event, which began a month in advance, is exploring many aspects and facets of this one-day event that revolutionised the face of cricket as a sport.

Nostalgia is getting combined with a pragmatic look at what to expect and what not in the tournament, which in our country is obviously the biggest sporting event ever to take place, given the numbers that follow the game here.

The corporate world sees the event as a major opportunity to advertise their products and control the news flow in a manner which turns the World Cup into a profitable consumer brand. So you have all the winning captains coming on one platform to talk about the past and grip the nation in a wave of nostalgia, or the members of the India team speaking of their great dream to win the Cup. The branding of these events is being done and controlled by a conglomerate of Indian and multinational companies out to milk the tournament for their own commercial growth.

No one is complaining. The players are getting richer, the sponsors increasing the awareness of their brands and the media benefiting from the advertising revenue being generated. It is a symbiotic relationship which benefits all the stakeholders, except, maybe the genuine fan.

Those who invest millions would want the world to believe that there are no uncomfortable questions surrounding the event that need to be discussed for the better health of the sport.

In this great build-up, of which the recurring theme is that India and the Cup are made for each other, we tend to ignore the many challenges facing not just the one-dayers, but possibly the World Cup itself.

We all know what a sheer disaster the long-drawn 2007 event was, which forced another change of format for this World Cup. Given the commercial constraints and the need to keep countries like India in the tournament for a substantial period of time, we now have a format which for a major period of time would be almost meaningless. Therefore, would there be a sustained interest for the group stage league, from which finally eight teams will qualify for the knock-out? Will the crowds in India watch matches in which their team is not involved? What would finally be the real response of the corporate world and even the spectators, given the fact that the IPL is going to be held immediately after World Cup?

It's the popularity of the T20 format and the money riding on it because of the lucrative and huge Indian market, that even an event like World Cup could be seen by many now as an "unnecessary irritant".