Sachin Tendulkar’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha has caused almost everyone from indifferent to intensely involved reacting to this development. And unlike many other nominations to the Upper House which go unnoticed, Sachin has become topic of discussions this time not for some cricketing record but for his new role in the world of politics.
Leaving aside the ‘indifferent’, people with opinion take two opposing positions. One group has welcomed this development and they find nothing wrong with their star playing his new innings at the political stadium. On the other hand, the other group does not find it comforting to see their legend donning a new role in political theatre.
How can this phenomenon be seen from a marketing angle? This seems to be a case of brand extension but with one difference, here the extension decision is not taken by the firm that owns the brand but by an external agency. For instance the decision as to what product categories (spaces or markets or categories), Pepsi brand should get into is a decision choice of PepsiCo not anybody else. Brands are extended to harness their full potential and make them bigger. This often involves taking them into spaces (categories). The Dettol brand ventured out of its antiseptic category to toilet soap and hand wash category to become a mega brand. But does it mean that a brand can travel into ‘any’ category in its journey to become a mega brand. Here lies a catch. It may be very difficult to think of Colgate on a category other than toothpaste. This concept is called brand prototypicality. It is how closely a brand is linked to its category. Prototypical brands get intrinsically anchored to their category so much that their alternate conceptualizations become difficult.
Some questions become important in this context. Is Sachin a prototypical cricket (concrete attribute) brand? Is he more about achievement and excellence (abstract attribute)? What is the commitment and liking level of his followers and fan? What associations are linked with the world of cricket and the world of politics in peoples’ minds? Are competencies needed to excel in these two fields same or different?
The opinions are highly divided on this issue. Some people have called this as ‘dirtiest play’ and some think he is used ‘to divert attention from the problems’. Many are concerned that ‘he does not suffer the same fate as another legend’. One of the voices is said that ‘The kind of person Sachin is we never expected him to take up politics’. Then there are people who have welcomed this development. Many of the former cricket players have expressed their shock and echoed concerns have to how an apolitical person like Sachin plays political game.
These reactions are very similar to how consumers react to a brand extension. Consider Ponds marketing toothpaste or white beauty cream. One simple exercise can reveal why people have reacted to the way they did:
- List the words associated with politics and politicians.
- List the words that are associated with Sachin Tendulkar.
- Now mix these two sets of associations and create a new list.
Now check the third list whether the words/ associations in this list create a harmonious mix (do not militate against each other) or have high degree of harmony.
An inconsistent mix would signal that two concepts, Sachin and politics do not make a nice cocktail.