Needed Urgently: Brand Reputation Fixers
Simone Elkeles in her book, Perfect Chemistry asked, What's the use of having a reputation
if you can't ruin it every now and then?” One of the strongest believers of this statement
seem to be the people leading the largest, most popular sports platforms in the country.
The recent spot fixing scandal is a testimony to IPL’s wholehearted belief in this. It has
resulted in grave damage not only to IPL’s brand repute but also that of Indian cricket.
While it’s easy to dismiss this scandal as yet another controversy that IPL has famously
come to be associated with, I think it’s about time we took a pause. For a sport that has
millions of fans and countless amount of passion, love, zeal and energy invested in it, it’s a
betrayal of the highest order. It started with the sacking of Lalit Modi due to
misappropriation of funds, then came the resignation of Shashi Tharoor for his alleged
involvement in the Kochi franchise bid and now this.
Take another case of reputation mismanagement. The Commonwealth Games. Remember
how ill prepared the organizing committee was in the run up to the event? How pathetic
was the condition of the Olympics Village when the global federation came to review
progress? And how inflated were the contracts that took place under the leadership of the
then Chairman, Mr. Suresh Kalmadi?
IPL and Commonwealth Games – 2 massive brands that put India in the global spotlight. 2
mega opportunities to showcase India’s sports management skills to the world. Look what
we did to the former and look what are we are doing to the latter.
IIPL infact is one brand that has grabbed the world’s attention. It’s an opportunity that many
international cricketers want to latch onto and a business model that companies and sports
associations around the world wish to emulate. And then when incidents like spot fixing
happen, they question the very core of the game, and cause severe dent to brand image. A
recent study by Brand Finance Plc has estimated that IPL’s long-term brand value has
eroded by $1billion since 2008, due to such scams and the resulting descent in trust. And this
doesn’t include the erosion of brand trust among the true followers of the game. That
explains why so many viewers watching the finals were wondering all through, whether
that match too was fixed.
Perhaps IPL and BCCI could take lessons from brands who have also suffered crises that
resulted in large-scale threats to their image. Do you recall the fiasco at one of the American
outlets of a famous international pizza delivery brand? Two employees uploaded a sick
prank video of them contaminating food with human mucus, putting cheese up their nose
and violating other health code standards. The video went viral and resulted in more than a
million disgusted viewers and massive danger to a brand built over decades. The company’s
reaction to the crisis has 2 key lessons. First, gracefully acknowledge that you did wrong.
The brand didn’t go in denial mode but publicly admitted that what had happened was
terrible. Second, speed of response is key. In today’s times when social media ensures that
bad news travels fast and achieves monstrous proportions, you can’t afford to wait. The
company quickly issued an apology on its website and then posted a more elaborate video
on YouTube from its President.
Another lesson to pick up is from a professional networking site that got hacked last year.
This resulted in several passwords getting compromised. The company responded not only
by apologizing but also by continuously informing customers of the measures being taken to
correct the problem via its twitter and blog pages. That’s lesson three. Keep the channels of
communication open, continuously reassure your customers of the corrective steps being
A final example is from Volkswagen. Several years ago, one of their car brands had to be
recalled in massive numbers owing to a fault in the machinery. This had a severe impact on
the brand’s image and sales. The brand decided to do something it or perhaps any other
brand had never done before. It’s next campaign began with a teaser that showed consumers
actually running away from VW salespeople. This bold depiction of truth was then followed
by communicating how the cars were now fault-free and completely safe. The lesson: Big
disasters call for bold actions to be taken.
Now, let’s look at the state of the custodians of Indian cricket. Be it BCCI or IPL, did they
gracefully acknowledge the wrongdoing? Did they or are they even now responding
speedily? With the Chairman having spent most of his time unsuccessfully fighting to keep
his position, do we have any hope of quick resolution on the matter? Instead of keeping
communication channels open or seeing innovative corrective actions being thought
through, all we see is lack of transparency.
It would help if the cricket bodies learnt from some of these brands who managed to restore
faith after disaster struck. Because it is imperative to earn back the trust . They owe to all
innocent cricketers who’s been shamed by virtue of being a part of cricket. They owe it to
every Indian who has ever bunked a class/office or prayed for his /her team to win.