Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa became the second Indian after Viswanathan Anand to reach the World Chess Final in more than two decades.
After an hour of fierce competition in the second game of the FIDE Chess World Cup, Praggnanandhaa and world no.1 Magnus Carlsen decided to draw. The final will now go into a tie-breaker.
Brands and marketers are sponsoring sporting events and athletes beyond cricket and football, encouraged by wins at the Olympics, Asian Games and other sporting events. Sportspersons from badminton, wrestling, gymnastics, tennis, kabbadi and more have been onboarded as brand ambassadors of late.
With his entry into the World Chess championship finals, Praggnanandhaa is garnering attention from national and global media. Will he become the blue-eyed boy of the ad world?
Viswanathan Anand has been part of several brand campaigns. The list includes Horlicks, NIIT, Parle Milk Shakti, Edify, Vodafone and Crocin – they found a fit with the chess wiz and the game and newer brands continue to associate with him even today. He is far older than Praggnanandhaa’s 18. Does that make the latter more suited for some brands than others?
We posed the question: Which are the brands that could ride Praggnanandhaa’s success today and why?
Mental prowess and acumen
“Over the last few years, we have seen more money and attention pouring into non-cricket sports. The success of our sportspeople in diverse sports such as boxing, badminton, wrestling, and athletics, has contributed to this welcome development. Viswanathan Anand was instrumental in bringing visibility to chess. Now, with the stellar performance of R Praggnanandhaa in the FIDE World Cup, chess is likely to get even more visibility, and with that, a lot of marketers may already be exploring Pragg as an ambassador for their brands. In our experience, consumers value authenticity of a brand ambassador and their fit with the brand the most,” observes Amit Adarkar, CEO, Ipsos India.
According to Adarkar, chess represents mental prowess and acumen.
“Pragg, with his strong family values and commitment to his game, offers natural fit with any category that aids mental development, be it health drinks, vitamins & mineral supplements, and health foods. Over and above, online education and technology products also offer a suitable fit. Pragg represents solid earthy Indian family values. Any brand riding on similar values could benefit as well,” he adds.
Face of social initiatives?
“R Praggnanandhaa’s meteoric rise in the world of chess presents a golden opportunity for diverse brands and endeavours to align themselves with his remarkable journey. With a burgeoning social media presence, gaining nearly 8-10k followers daily on Twitter during his semi-finals advancement, his popularity speaks volumes. Brands spanning sectors like technology, FMCG, and e-learning platforms stand to benefit from associating with his inspiring achievements,” says Sahil Gupta, Lead – Influencer Marketing, Interactive Avenues (the digital arm of IPG Mediabrands India).
Gupta adds that his potential representation in governmental initiatives targeting youth could prove immensely motivational. His narrative embodies qualities of determination, focus, and excellence that such campaigns aspire to champion, explains Gupta.
“Praggnanandhaa’s success is like a well-played gambit in the world of brand endorsements. Think about it – just like his strategic moves on the chessboard, brands can make some calculated moves with this young genius,” opines Krishna Iyer, Director – Marketing, MullenLowe Lintas Group.
According to Iyer, watch brands could see this as a timely opportunity, especially the ones that showcase precision and strategy that chess demands. Education and learning platforms symbolising the power of mind could make a stride, he says.
Brands have a checkmate opportunity
Iyer notes, “Brands focusing on technological prowess – AI, hardware, cloud computing – may find the connection with Praggnanandhaa logical and convincing. Transportation and logistics companies that depend on ‘on-time’ promises could highlight how chess and travel involve strategic planning and calculated moves.”
“Praggnanandhaa’s success isn’t just about chess; it’s a masterclass in strategic thinking that can resonate across categories, capturing the essence of precision, foresight, and intelligent moves. As he continues to challenge the reigning kings in the chess arena, brands have a checkmate opportunity to align with his brilliance,” he adds.
“Chess, today, has become a global sport. If you look at the fact that chess has a strong connotation towards strategy and intelligence, I believe that some of the large technology players would certainly look at it – the companies who are into new age technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics etc. For those companies Praggnanandhaa, as someone who has made huge impact in global sport, would be symbolic and representative. Given the fact that Pragganandha is a child prodigy and has reached finals and is facing the world champion and has a fair chance to possibly claim the world chess championship title – Edtech would be another category,” observes Lloyd Mathias, Angel Investor and Brand Strategist.
“Chess as a sport has many obvious connotations and is often associated with intelligence, strategy, alertness, critical thinking, problem-solving, and unwavering mental focus. Each of these associations presents clear brand-affiliation opportunities spanning various sectors including sports and apparel, edutech, gaming, nutrition, food and beverages, as well as entertainment and media. However, the potential impact of such partnerships is likely to be directly proportional to what extent the nation and the media celebrate the sport and its champion,” says Pavan Padaki, Author Brand Vinci and Branding Coach.
“Equally crucial is the personality of the sports champion. A camera-friendly and media-savvy demeanour naturally broadens the scope, enabling brands to extract more value from the champion beyond their sports accomplishments. Leveraging the champion’s personal values and beliefs strategically can effectively mirror the brand’s essence and character,” Padaki observes.
According to him, in today’s digital landscape, the champion’s online presence and engagement hold substantial sway in determining the success of any collaborative endeavor. The prominence of social media and digital platforms adds a new layer to brand partnerships.
“Champions in less mainstream sports, such as chess, can serve as influential figures for social impact initiatives led by non-profit organisations. They can effectively convey pertinent and educational messages on subjects like health, safety, finance, and new legislation. In this capacity, these champions become channels of communication for vital and enlightening information,” he adds.
“I think Pragganandha is a picture of calmness and humility, with stratospheric brain function. If we look beyond the obvious brand connections like health drinks, it would be interesting to see how other brands use him well. For example, there is this lovely story I read about his mom making rasam rice everywhere he travels to his play. Food delivery brands could do some lovely stuff. Subway saw Vishy Anand after his prime. Imagine the same possibilities of brands and creative agencies spotting his 18-year-old self now,” says Deepan Ramachandran, CEO and Creative Director, Mind Your Language.
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