For a cricket spectator like me, the IPL or the Indian Premier League presents long periods of intense self-absorption. But I am sometimes intrigued by what could have been the actual purpose of this greatly addictive tournament.
Great cricket, a revenue opportunity for the cricket board, advertisers getting to reach cricket-worshipping India, spectators banding together as fan armies — all of this, yes, but the one that appeals to me deeply is this — it is a platform for young cricketers to play, compete with some of the best players in the world and gain that much-needed international exposure.
Imagine a T. Natarajan bowling to Chris Gayle. Or an Ankit S. Rajpoot getting advice from Steve Smith. IPL seems to help in gaining confidence, earning a standing and possibly even bolstering their self-worth. For some of them, it has paved the way to donning the India colours. If you ask me, this is the real worth of IPL.
“Yatra pratibha avsara prapnotihi”, which means “Where talent meets opportunity”. This is what is inscribed on the IPL trophy. And this rings so true hearing Hyderabadi bowler Mohammed Siraj’s down-to-earth articulation of his humble beginnings and passion for cricket. How cricket and his IPL earnings gave him an opportunity to provide basic creature comforts to his parents and brother. This season, Siraj has hit the headlines in IPL for several reasons. And now he is also a part of the Indian Test team. There are many more young cricketers who have stories similar to Siraj’s. All of which reflect IPL’s real brand purpose.
But does purpose really matter? Especially for brands and businesses? We hear so much talk from marketing wizards that purpose guides brands and purpose it is when you have to connect with the new, thinking consumer. Some pundits even say that purpose means brands having a point of view and appeal to the higher, emotional needs of a consumer. No disagreements on that. But isn’t the fundamental question the ability of a brand to deliver a functional benefit, solve a problem or meet a need? Certainly, a brand can advocate a purpose, but while doing that the assumption is that the functional aspects are getting delivered. Because that allows for basic survival of the brand. And purpose helps building on it with elements of emotion and differentiation.
In the difficult times we live in now, when survival of businesses seems to be paramount, functionality is at the core. It cannot be sacrificed for purpose. And merely having one is not enough. What purpose does have a Parle G have, except to give us all a satisfying and value for money biscuit time? It is in fact one of India’s most popular comfort food. Or for that matter isn’t the purpose of all payment apps to deliver convenience and speed while protecting our details? But if you were to say a hospital brand or an organic food company needs to have a purpose, I would agree. Purpose is not a holy grail. Marketers need to prioritise functionality and layer this with the avowed purpose. I would suggest a four-point check list for deciding on the purpose — understand the functional benefits of your brand, assess the emotional dimensions your brand can shoulder, do a pulse check on your more vocal target audiences, their needs and aspirations, and draw a strong connection between the purpose and your line of business.
Switching back to IPL and brand purpose in that context — don’t we all need to have great, gripping and enjoyable cricket first, then as fans or rather as consumers of cricket, we move our attention to the other outcomes, like young names getting recognised and gaining a semblance of financial stability? Just imagine; if IPL were to only tell you they were bringing young cricketers together and providing them a platform. Would you watch IPL with the same enthusiasm? Well as a fan and cricket lover you would want the big names, the fanfare, the myths and stories that cricket creates and the nailbiting finishes — all of which are the promise of IPL. After that comes the purpose that has let a Mohammed Siraj bowl us over…