To help IPL, fix BCCI: Brand & media stalwarts

IPL season-3 is over. But the disturbing revelations are still spewing out into the public domain. India's most expensive sports business has a new head and the BCCI has appointed an official to look into the disappearance of papers that could expose more acts of impropriety. But are these correctives enough? Will they help IPL survive the ignoble scandal? Adgully seeks opinions from distinguished experts

Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director, Madison World

A brand, which is an abstract structure like the IPL, can survive a crisis better than a brand which is an individual like Tiger Woods. If I associate my brand with Woods, I do so because I want the properties and success factors of Woods to be directly associated with my brand. With IPL, that association is one step removed. I am buying IPL fundamentally to expose my message to millions of people and not necessarily to associate directly with IPL as a brand.

IPL has taken cricket to greater heights by combining the game with Bollywood. As long as you keep innovating on that formula, IPL will succeed. By the next IPL season, all will be forgotten. At any rate, the viewer is interested in entertainment and the game, rather than administration.

The lesson to learn: there should have been enough safeguards from the corporate governance point of view.

Ayaz Memon, senior journalist and cricket expert

The brand IPL will survive the scandal unless the new governing council (or whatever is instituted in its place) defaults with poor managerial practices. The IPL has caught the imagination of the cricket-loving public in India. It already has a robust structure in place with 10 franchises, sponsors, broadcaster and players. There is a degree of public trust which has to be regained. That can come through more transparency.

As far as IPL's weakness is concerned, there was no regulatory body in place, or at least it was malfunctioning. There were not enough checks and balances in place, or at least these were not employed. It seems now that Lalit Modi used sweeping powers to break norms and conventions. In a sense, Modi had become synonymous with the IPL because he had become a larger than life influence on the product: involved in the auction bids for franchises and players, in marketing, as also as the operational head. But why should a 13-member governing council of eminent people have not questioned the commissioner for so long?

At any rate, if wrongdoing is established, the BCCI must hand out exemplary punishment because the wrongdoing would have transgressed not only BCCI's rules but also the public trust.

Harish Bijoor, Brand-strategy specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

An excessive reliance on pomp and show, and the influence of very big monies chasing even bigger monies, did IPL in. IPL's biggest weakness lies in poor governance and the complete lack of transparency. But I do believe that IPL will survive the scandal. There are just too many stake-holders in it for it to dissipate and vanish. It is important to estimate the damage based on the facts of the case. The damage can be peripheral if this crisis is all about bruised egos and a lot of baseless charges. If it is deeper with, for instance, the charges of match-fixing being proven, then the IPL; the 20-20 format; the BCCI, cricket itself; and indeed the equity of players involved will all go into a limbo of sorts. But this will probably last five to eight seasons, after which, the proverbial short public memory will erase [the episode].

Scandals happen. It is, however, important for brand IPL to deal with the crisis efficiently. The first step will be to appoint a crisis-management brand team. This team needs to be a brand-centric entity. A white paper on all three editions of IPL, needs to be put out with clarity and this white paper should be open for public debate. The IPL needs an RTI Act of its own, because those involved with the game are not only the administrators, but millions of cricket lovers who invest their time, money and passion in it.

As for the question of the brand IPL becoming interchangeable with an individual, I will say that building institutions takes time and passion. In the beginning, the IPL may have seemed synonymous with Lalit Modi. This need not be so. In reality, Modi and his work gave a lot to IPL. In return, he got back a lot from this association. Brands are built through symbiotic approaches at times. I will therefore not grudge Modi this [his status, while he ran the IPL].

Unni Krishnan, managing director, Brand Finance

I think IPL will definitely survive the crisis. I don't foresee the demise of the brand as a result of the challenges it has faced in the recent past. The property has become big over the past one or two years. The number of stakeholders attached to the property have considerable opportunity at stake. And India has not produced a commercial sports business this large in its history. Moreover, cricket is a big draw for the younger generation in the country.

In a report that we had published in early February, we highlighted the fact that IPL brand's ecosystem was rapidly heading towards an inflection point. An infection point is one where a business not only has a considerable upside opportunity but also a significant downside risk. We had highlighted risks in the domain of transparency and governance; the legal structure of the BCCI; long-term stakeholder relationship systems and processes; and finally, fiscal prudence. Today, weaknesses in each of these areas are being laid bare.

As for a powerful individual running a system, you cut a knife through any business around the world, and you will find a visionary and the axis around which the business revolves. But businesses which are global, and successful over a remarkable period of time, of maybe more than 100 years, are also blessed with a great management team, whose members share ideas and opinions and work to minimise risks and maximise opportunities.

[The question to ask is] the way the BCCI is structured, like a small club or a cottage industry you may say, does it have the systems and capabilities of giving stewardship to a brand like the IPL? The answer is NO! Unless the BCCI is reconstituted and re-energised to manage a property like the IPL, which India is blessed to have, we will face shameful moments.

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