Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commentators and Salesmen

CWG was a great marketing platform for a variety of sports. People saw athletes in action, winning medals and in the process making the sport popular. With that a hope arises that youngsters will follow them and in the process make India reach out to the world. More than that, make the sport reach out to Indians, making it as popular as Cricket. The process may be on and the change happening but can they reach Cricket's level of popularity and more importantly sustain that popularity? Tough. Very tough. Yes, there are many variables like more exposure, more games, more facilities etc etc. But one thing that I believe has played a pivotal role in marketing cricket is the commentary!

The difference between the cricket's commentators and the ones of the other sports was evident in the recently concluded CWG coverage. In cricket, since childhood we have been fed on the nitty gritty of the game. It has been helped by Gavaskers, Shastris, Bhogles who know the intricacies of the game and articulate it very well.
Why do We know that if there is grass on the pitch, it will be good for the fast bowlers and if it is a dry pitch having cracks,  spinners are going to rule the roost? Not because we know the science behind it. But because it was drilled into us again and again, match after match in the extensive pitch reports.  Keys were pushed in the pitch, the cracks were shown clearly, the grass or absence of it was clearly pointed out along with the implications. The 8 odd hours was literally a cricket classroom if you had the patience to sit and watch the whole match. And I am sure there are plenty of atleast my generation who have sat there listening intensly for 100 overs and more.

The knowledge of all the nuances of the game makes it interesting. You get more involved because you understand. And when you understand, you can talk and debate. And when something gets people talking, then it is.. well, popular!!
An understanding of why the sports person is doing something in a certain way enhances the experience of watching the game. I saw sports like Boxing, Wrestling and couldn't understand when and why they were being awarded points. What are the strategies employed? We saw boxers leading comfortably but still going for aggression in the final round rather than saving energy in defense. What were the reasons?

One can learn from observations. Yes. But commentary enhances the observation. Whenever a team needs  two runs in say 3 balls, all the fielders are brought closer to the batsman. We can know that by observation. But commentary adds a reason to it and supplements our understanding . For a youngster it is a terrific learning experience which they can simulate while playing on the ground.

There may be an argument that cricket is long and not very fast (like Hockey), giving plenty of time for a good commentary. It will be tougher in games like boxing, wrestling which last for 15 - 20 minutes. Yes, it may be difficult but the time can be utilized better. e.g. in Hockey, most of the time the commentary consists of who has the possession of the ball and to whom it is being passed. It is as if they are stuck in the radio mode describing the action in detail which is actually not required.

Organisations have  Brand Ambassadors as well as Salesmen. A Shahrukh Khan will make you aware of a new Hyundai car in town but for actual selling, a Sales man is needed to tell you the features and benefits of the car and to overcome your doubts.  In sports, we have the brand ambassadors in form of these medal winning and awe-inspiring athletes but what we lack is a Sales team in the form of commentators who need to do the actual connect, giving a good experience to the audience.

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