Chennai Super Kings, the face of sub-nationalism branding

Led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the ninth year, Chennai Super Kings took a month to regain its old rhythm, even in the world of brands.

Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with team-mates at a training session ahead of the season opener at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.   -  Vivek Bendre


When Chennai Super Kings returned to the Indian Premier League fold after a two-year suspension, there were doubts whether the team would be able to bring back its lost glory.

But Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his side regained its old rhythm in a month — on the field, as well as in the world of branding.

Noted brand consultant, Harish Bijoor, believes that the team’s revival was dependent on two entities — team’s performance and Dhoni — and it has been able to tick the right boxes. “A brand is about performance, and an IPL team brand, more so, is about performance greater, because at the end of the day it is about a championship and a league, where performances matter. CSK is a classic case of a team which, I would say, has returned from the dead,” Bijoor tells Sportstar.

READ: CSK rides on Rayudu to thump Sunrisers

“The team died due to circumstances, or you could say, it died unnaturally, but the crux of the matter is, it died. Dhoni and CSK has an umbilical connect, which existed from day one,” says Bijoor, who runs a boutique-consulting outfit, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Harish Bijoor.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


Explaining further, Bijoor —who has previously worked with companies like Hindustan Lever, Tata Cofee and Zip Telecom Limited adds: “The beauty of it is that when it comes to a sport like the IPL, residual brand value is very high for teams. Fortunately, the team was not out of the league for more than two years, and in those two years, the team was missed. In fact, a large portion of the followers of Dhoni actually went with him to the new team (Rising Pune Supergiant) he belonged to. Now that he is back again, the fan following is back with CSK.”

READ: Chennai Super Kings leads the television battle

But then, Bijoor also believes that the biggest plus for CSK has been its ability to develop sub-nationalism branding. “Among all the teams at the IPL, CSK has been the team which have focused on micro-marketing. They have done a beautiful job in terms of fan followership, investing in all the brand cue that are necessary — right from bringing the colour yellow, deepening the colour yellow, showcasing some of the team-members, investing in whistle podu, and investing in, what I would call, sub-nationalism branding,” Bijoor says.

Piyush Pandey: 'Brands are like human beings.'   -  Paul Noronha

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“Theoretically I would say, sub-nationalism is now larger than national cricket, where it is India versus the rest. With teams like CSK, Royal Challengers Bangalore, possibly to an extent, Kolkata Knight Riders — the sub-nationalism overrides nationalism in a big way. I think CSK has contributed to sub-nationalism branding,” he adds.

Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, Ogilvy South Asia, feels that both Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals -- returning from two-year suspensions -- have been welcomed by fans with open arms. "They are strong brands, and for whatever reasons, they were out for the last two years. But people have welcomed CSK and RR with open arms. That is the value of a brand. When you are loved, people are willing to wait for you; they are willing forgive you. That’s a brand. Brands are like human beings, if you love somebody a lot and when you see them faltering somewhere, you will say: ‘it’s only human, I still love you’," Pandey says.

It’s not for nothing that CSK remains one of the most sought after brands in the world of cricket.

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