Come the 3rd day of October this year, India will attempt to showcase its arrival on the world stage when the Commonwealth Games kick off in Delhi. Given the attention which India garners in the international press these days, it’s enough to say that the world will be watching us to see if we can pull this off. This makes it one grand marketing spectacle, with a little bit for everyone. But has it been marketed enough?
A spectacle like the Commonwealth Games provides a unique opportunity for a nation to brand and showcase itself in better light. It’s a chance to make a firm and lasting impact on the world stage. However, we find that the run up to the Games has been marred by controversies, one after another, and this has certainly left a bitter taste.
Initially, there were fears that the stadium facilities and the city’s infrastructure projects would not be completed on time. This was followed by a good dose of criticism in the press about the inconvenience caused to folks in Delhi. Next, in typical neta style, we were witness to a good deal of squabbling between politicians and bureaucrats. Finally, allegations of corruption provided the icing on the cake.
Given all the negative publicity, how do we save Shera?
At home – Engage the crowds
To establish a favorable impression abroad, it is first necessary to woo our own citizens and attempt to develop a sense of pride and ownership among them. Currently, people in India seem to be a tad disconnected with the show in Delhi. With just a few months to go, this requires urgent attention. CWG merchandise, which has been delayed by some time now (sigh!), must be rolled out on a massive scale and made available to citizens at large. The organizers must look to step up print and media advertising to showcase the positives – the number of participants, the revenue neutral budget, the Green Games initiative etc. We want people to stop talking about the controversies and start talking more about the event. Also, given the lukewarm interest from corporates, it would also be a good idea to appeal to Indian industry leaders and seek their help for branding and promoting the event in better light.
Abroad – Talk to the athletes
To negate the damage to our national brand and to throw favorable light on the Games, it is again important to reach out to the masses in the Commonwealth nations. However, people abroad are neither going to listen to our Honorable Sports Minister nor our Beloved Chairman of the Organizing Committee. Instead, we must let them hear it from their own athletes. For example, Annamay Pierse, the Canadian swimmer and World record holder in the women’s 200 m breaststroke event has expressed her keen desire and interest to be a part of the Games. Wouldn’t it help if the Canadian public got to hear this from one of their leading athletes? A concerted effort must be launched to engage the athletes, establish a favorable impression with them and communicate their eagerness and interest to the public. It would also be a good idea to reach out to NRIs and PIOs abroad and kindle their pride and patriotism, seek their help and use them as unofficial brand ambassadors within their respective circles. This would certainly influence popular opinion favorably among people abroad.
I know it is a touch too late for this, but it would help if we could couple the Games with our tourism promotion and come out with something along the lines of the Incredible India campaign. Our rich culture and heritage is one of our USPs and given the damage to our credibility, it would certainly be a fine time to play this card. With the right degree of push, it would definitely help overshadow the unsavory coverage which the event has received so far.
Playing host to the Commonwealth Games provides us with a unique and powerful opportunity, one which must not be squandered. A concerted effort to save Shera is needed in the best interests of our people. Think about the current level of enthusiasm and the expectation for the Cricket World Cup in 2011. Compare this with the Commonwealth Games to be held in less than 60 days from now. I rest my case.