The Indian Premier League – Observing Brand Behaviour

Since 2008, the vast majority of people with Indian origins look forward to the month of April. That includes the huge non-resident population across the globe, and especially in the US and the UK. The event? The DLF Indian Premier League, which has more or less revolutionised the way cricket is played (and watched) by millions of people.

The final game of the 2010 IPL was last Sunday. I’m not a massive cricket fan myself, but being surrounded by people who are, I’m pretty familiar with it now.

There’s a LOT of money being poured into it. To give you an idea (if you’re not familiar with the IPL as such), here’s what Wikipedia says:

In 2010, IPL became the first sporting event ever to be broadcast live on the popular video sharing website YouTube. It’s brand value was estimated to be around $4.13 billion (over Rs 18,000 crore) the same year. According to global sports salaries review, IPL is the second highest-paid league, based on first-team salaries on a pro rata basis, second only to the NBA. It is estimated that the average salary of an IPL player over a year would be £2.5 million.

OK, got that?

Now, going on to what I wanted to say, the key sponsors have more or less changed the way things like a sixer, a catch or a wicket are referred to by people in India, at least during the IPL. Terms like these are standard:

Citi Moment of Success (when a 4 or 6 is hit or when a wicket falls)
Karbonn Kamaal Catches (for a catch)
DLF Maximum 6’s Award (self-explanatory)
Maxx Mobile Strategic Time-Out (self-explanatory)

Technically it’s just the commentators at the moment. When a ball is caught mid-air, the commentator actually says ‘And that’s a Karbonn Kamaal catch!’ (it’s probably a legal requirement), but I’m sure it’ll become common amongst the public as time goes by. Brands are certainly leveraging the mass appeal of the event – I hadn’t even heard of Karbonn Mobiles or Maxx Mobiles before. (DLF is a huge infrastructure company and Citi = Citibank, in case you were wondering).

I wonder if this kind of heavy-handed ‘say our brand name when this action happens during the game or else’ behaviour will slowly change the way people refer to basic things like sixes and fours in India. A few years down the line, young kids will grow up thinking ‘DLF Maximum’ is an actual prefix to ‘six’.

I tried to think of other examples of brands altering languages in this way, not just as a title sponsor which we’re used to – and I hit a wall. Can you think of anything?

Introducing Robin of Shoreditch

Yes, like Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, only this is a group of Robins (“creative outlaws”, they call themselves) and they’re based in that London ‘hood of creativity, Shoreditch (of course). If you’re still wondering what this is about, Robin of Shoreditch have decided that as their first project they want to help the people of Haiti. They’ve sent an invoice to the top 100 brands in the Brandz Top 100 Brands report, for 1/10,000,000 (one ten-millionth) of the value of the brand, along with a creative idea that will help the brand get ahead in the race for people’s attention. The amount collected will go to Haiti relief efforts.

The good news? Well, just that they exist, I suppose! I think it’s a super creative idea and it’s for a good cause, so I’m all for what they’re doing. You can see all the ideas here.

The bad news? If you look at the collections page, none of the brands approached so far (they’re sending their ideas to a set of brands every week in different batches) has paid up. Those approached so far include T-Mobile, Ariel, UPS, HSBC, Tesco, McDonald’s, Morgan Stanley, Nike and Blackberry.

I really like their most recent one, for Blackberry:

So go on, ye merry men (and women!). Spread the word.

Playmakers

Last week I went to the London premiere of Playmakers at NESTA. Playmakers is a film by Ivo Gormley that documents the open design process that Alex Fleetwood and Holly Gramazio went through to design Scoop!, a real life game that was played by adults in July 2009 on the South Bank in London. (Some of you may remember Ivo from his previous film about crowdsourcing, Us Now, that I blogged about here). The project was backed by Think Public, NESTA and Hide & Seek.

Holly and Alex are pervasive game designers, and the film traces their journey of designing Scoop! through lessons learnt during other games that the team designed, such as Capture the Flag. As an adult, I see precious little of the fun elements in routine chores because they aren’t designed to be fun, and Playmakers tries to underline how play can make a huge difference to the way we view things. The film also included snippets of interviews with urban design lecturers who said that urban design should encourage play. Sometimes that is all the difference between lacklustre physical spaces and those that encourage positive social behaviour and active participation in society.

Most importantly though, I took home the fact that games are platforms for stories. And anything interesting takes the form of story-telling, really. Ian Drysdale’s tweet sums it up perfectly:

The film will have be available to the public soon, but in the meantime here are the videos made during the project last year, that will give you a taste of what Playmakers is all about.

Translating words into art

One of my favourite talks at SXSW was danah boyd’s, on privacy and publicity in a socially networked world. She’s put up the transcript of her talk here, and you should read it if you haven’t already.

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Heather Willems of ImageThink, a company that translates talks into real-time visuals, was hard at work during the session and what you see above is what she drew as danah was speaking at SXSW. Heather kindly sent a clean graphic of her work to a bunch of us who requested it after the talk – thanks Heather!

I also thought her work on Daniel Pogue’s double review of the iPad in the New York Times last week (one for techies, one for everyone else, as he says), was quite amusing:

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Lessons for life from Greg Kot’s book on Wilco

From Wilco: Learning How to Die by Greg Kot (Wilco is one of my favourite bands), all quotations by Jeff Tweedy.

The main thing I learned is that the more I can forget about being embarrassed when I make something, the more it is going to mean something to somebody else. I can’t anticipate what it’s going to be or how it’s going to be perceived, so the quicker I let go of something I make, the better.

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Democracy is a very unrealistic and difficult thing in the context of a band. It’s best to hope for a benign dictatorship.

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I started writing from the viewpoint of America as this imagined space, the America that exists in everyone. There is nothing more abstract to me than the idea of a country. These solitudes exist so apart from each other in this sea of white noise and information. And the beautiful thing is they keep transmitting to each other in the hope that somebody is going to find them. And the beauty is that people still do, still find some meaning in another person, in a relationship, find some way to communicate, even though more often than not it’s in a way not what they intended. Because some communication is better than giving up or not communicating at all.

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To people who say I’m acting like an indie artist on a major record label I say ‘I don’t now any other way.’ I’ve been trained historically not to expect things I make to go through the roof, and that if I make the record I believe in, it will grow incrementally, and that the record I made three years ago will be more appreciated now than the record I’m currently making. [….] When somebody makes a piece of music, and they aim for a target and hit it, that purity is lost on a lot people, because what it may communicate to future generations is the love for money or the desire for fame. But the ability to do that is human, an it’s insanely powerful and profound to connect with a fan like that. Some people in the record industry may not think so, but I would welcome that sort of connection. But that’s not something I could even think about, let alone control. The only kind of ‘direct marketing’ we’ve ever been good at is going out and playing for people. And the only thing I can be confident about is that I do everything I can to stay focused on the act of making music, not how it will be perceived or how much it will sell. Because as soon as I do that, the music is fucked.