Friday, April 25, 2008

Cheerleaders in IPL : Imported without research

What kind of value do cricket-fans of IPL find in cheergirls? Positive, negative or indifferent? If the fans do not find positive value in cheergirls , then it makes immense business sense for the investors to save costs by stopping the show.

For the last 24 hours, television news channels have been agonising over this topic and sharing views of cricket historians , advertisement gurus, politicians and women’s associations. While serious cricket buffs have said that they don’t find any value , ad gurus seem to think that this is exactly what a representative fan of IPL wants and finds entertainment value for the ticket that he buys. A SMS poll on the debate will throw a clear answer although one creative ad guru has gone on record saying that any kind of “market research” in a business model such as IPL is redundant. Arrogance rather than ignorance seems to be the hallmark of such ad gurus who have achieved celebrity status!

But politicians have taken a moral stand on the issue saying that they should be banned because it is against the ethos of Indian culture. Very stereotypical of politicians who seem to be aspiring for political mileage by being guardians of Indian culture. Both in Maharastra and Bengal, outspoken ministers have let their negative views on cheerleaders be known. Only 2 politicians are in BCCI and seem to be gaining a lot out of its prosperity while sports ministers of other states seem to be working for the interest of these two (in arranging the stadium , lights, police, water etc.) without reciprocal returns. If not “cheerleaders”, I am sure, there will be other issues in the future where IPL will be under attack from the politicians.

Interestingly , the profile of IPL fan is quite different from a regular cricket buff. A fan on the ground is typically young, fun-loving and looking for wholesome entertainment while the one at home is watching reality television on a bigger scale. Creating a carnival atmosphere on the ground is part of the package and the cheerleaders play a role in it. The point is whether the package , fully copied and imported from NFL in the states, is totally relevant in the Indian context or can it bear a bit of metamorphosis in its package? For example , why does not IPL have Bollywood dance troupes do the cheerleading? That will be equally good fun.

On their own admission, the ad agencies have not done any research on the profile of the fan. The investors are simply looking at the gate sales and TRP rating for glorifying all parts of the IPL package. Already the stadiums in Hyderabad & Mohali seemed to be half empty and once the novelty value dies down, one can expect a similar spectacle in a few of the other stadiums. Secondly, when the marriage season gets going in May, one will see a similar drop in television viewership. Finally, simple fatigue of over-watching the same entertainment package could also set in .

It will be interesting to see , as the tournament progresses, whether fans of IPL would be loyal enough to be “repeat-buyers” of IPL entertainment , notwithstanding the presence/absence of cheerleaders.

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