Marketing Lessons from the Cricket World Cup
1 Dec 2023, By Deya Bhattacharya
Public expectations were massive for the men in blue this year. As the hosts of the Cricket World Cup, India had the coveted home field advantage, and critics and fans alike agreed that this was the best line-up the cricket team had in a long time. And yet, after an undefeated run of ten games and a nail-biting final match – India placed second to Australia.
It was a bitter moment for the country and the players, and the BCCI no doubt has a lot to think about before the next World Cup in 2027. But the story of India’s journey carries some powerful lessons for marketers and PR professionals looking to build winning brands. Let’s talk about some of these.
An advantage is not a guarantee
Being on the home field is certainly an advantage, and host countries have very often gone on to win the World Cup. However, an advantage is just that – an extra boost. As a brand, you may have the advantage of a product that’s popular with a lot of people, or of a campaign launch at a moment in time when it’s topically relevant. The actual results, however, always come down to a mixture of strategy, effort, and good luck.
Overconfidence can be a tripwire
India had enjoyed an undefeated run until then, with ten straight victories. Everyone was predicting an eleventh victory, and perhaps the team felt fairly sure about it too. And while this hubris wasn’t the direct cause of the defeat, it almost certainly played a role in how the Indian team approached the match.
The lesson here – treat every single campaign, product launch, event, or client onboarding with the same seriousness, no matter what the success or failure rate was before.
It’s best to avoid playing into communal sentiment
One of the key moments in the World Cup saga was the much publicised front-page spread offering Pakistan fans discounts on MakeMyTrip to console themselves after their defeat at India’s hands – before the match was even played. Many marketing veterans spoke out against it – others argued that it grabbed eyeballs, which is ultimately the goal of a marketing campaign.
Our take? Good marketing certainly stirs feelings, but stoking divisiveness isn’t the best idea. That inevitably comes with an element of looking down on the other side – which, ultimately, is a negative sentiment. The India-Pakistan rivalry is decades old and comes with a lot of sociopolitical baggage, something that savvy marketers should leave well alone.
You can do everything right and still be hated
After the finals, Indian cricket fans took to social media to blast the team for not being prepared enough. These were the same fans who had been enthusiastically supportive just the day before. The strong sense of identity that many Indians feel with cricket can foster significant bitterness when there is a loss, but no doubt it was hard for the team to log online and see so much criticism from the public.
The takeaway – there are ways to bolster audience loyalty (and at Star Squared PR, we specialise in building brands that audiences love), but it’s best to not bank on it unconditionally. Brands should always be prepared for mistakes and the backlash they can foster and have response plans in place. Long-term success will always depend on strategy, not sentiment.
In a game of champions, anything can happen
Australia and India are both excellent teams, and there was never any preordained fate about the final match. Australia also struggled before its truly remarkable comeback with Glenn Maxwell’s double century, and India won more matches than Australia overall.
When brands go head to head, it’s best to give each other that respect and not assume any kind of outcome. We see this in the ads that BMW and Mercedes Benz put out, where they acknowledge the other as a worthy rival. One might outsell the other in a given year, but the tides could change the very next year.
“It takes one day.”
That was the World Cup campaign slogan this year, and it sums the situation up perfectly. One can be the most talented and the most prepared and still come second in the final reckoning. India’s loss does not take away from the commendable effort put in by the Indian team, nor does it call into question the fact that they are one of the best cricket teams worldwide. But it’s a much-needed reminder that there’s always the element of the unpredictable – in sports, as well as in business of any kind.
The smartest brands acknowledge this, and put their efforts into being excellent every day no matter what the outcome is. And as long-time PR and marketing experts, we’re ideally positioned to craft a strategy of excellence for your brand. Reach out today to know more about how we can help.