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Where will Indian cricket find it’s new ‘SAHARA’…?

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Navroze D Dhondy Founder and Managing Director – Creatigies Communications

Navroze D Dhondy
Founder and Managing Director – Creatigies Communications

The year 2001. Headlines screamed across the newspapers. Wills out of Indian cricket team sponsorship:

With Kolkata’s Virginia House deciding to pull out of sports related sponsorship, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will have to shop for new sponsors for the glamour boys of Indian sport ”

Fast forward : the year 2013 : SAHARA pulls out of IPL and from Indian cricket ( from January 2014).

Yes, 2001 is still fresh in my memory……. The news of Wills moving out created more than a ripple. It wasn’t that ITC did not want to continue, but strong governmental laws and pressures did make WILLS realize that tobacco and sport were not being allowed to coexist anywhere in the world. The ITC Hotels brand was not ready ( or big enough at that time) to step in totally, though the Folded hands logo did make its appearance on the Indian shirt for a while, before a full pull out. ITC’s other brands like Sunfeast and Fiama were not even in the oven getting baked.

I still remember that a few international brands were at that time toying with the idea of replacing WILLS, and the BCCI was evaluating a few offers……. But then Subroto Roy Sahara had different ideas. An Indian team should have an Indian brand emblazoned across the shirt. And so it was for the next 12 long years.

The Sahara logo became synonymous with the Indian team, whether BIG and bold across the blue jerseys, or the more subtle black on white of the Test apparel.

Sahara became more than just a sponsor for the cricket team. It embraced the team and the management as part of a large family. Players from the past and even the current crop have had a great sense of ‘familial bonding’ with a logo on the shirt that has grown to be synonymous with Indian cricket.

Indian cricket has over the decades gained greatly from this support, as the coffers swelled ….Rs 35 lakhs for a match to the current fee of Rs. 3.34 crores per match. Now that is some multiplier effect, making it one of the most lucrative deals for any cricket board in the world.

One thing led to another, and aspirations of having its own team, its own “pariwar” on the field as a team in the exciting, enticing IPL. Thus was born the Pune Warriors India ….the new team on the block that threatened to challenge the supremacy of the BIG guns, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi. Each year the team pulled off some spectacular wins, and also fell to some devastating losses. Pitching in with Rs 1700 crores Sahara helped each of the IPL franchisees realize what a goldmine they were sitting on.

It was supposed to be a marriage made in heaven. BCCI – IPL – Sahara. But along the way too many bitter barbs have sullied the partnership. Pulling out, and then reinstating, Sahara and the BCCI had a tug-of-war no one really understood.

But this time it seems the die has been cast and the Sahara pull out seems cast in stone……. Or is it?

Stormy relationships sometimes do hold their ground and manage to pull through. Knowing the cricket lovers passion, and more so the way the Indian cricketer has seen Sahara embrace him and her into the Pariwar, it will be one difficult divorce to handle.

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