From Farokh Engineer's hair-styling cream ad to 'Real OGs', 10 times when Indian cricketers gave a cult face to product placements

The advertisements become more about the cricketer than the product itself. Such is the aura that the brands have banked upon time and again.

Plawan SarmaAuthor

Updated - 03 May 2021 11:25 PM

Brands have, since time immemorial, gone all guns blazing behind favoured faces to endorse their products. Besides movie stars, brands have found those 'favoured faces' among the cricket fraternity, more often than not. The cricketers too, on most occasions, have turned the advertisements into some of their most prized feature list, putting into it as much grit and resilience as they are generally found putting in to save a Test match.

More often than not, the advertisements are recollected and cherished by viewers years later in the parlance of the cricketer's performance rather than on context of the brand. The advertisements become more about the cricketer than the product itself. Such is the aura that the brands have banked upon time and again. As this tradition continues, we take a pause to look at the 10 best occasions on which Indian cricketers puffed soul of immortality into product placements.

1. Farokh Engineer, the 'Brylcreem' boy

The Parsi wicket-keeper batsman from Bombay had started earning acclaims from all quarters shortly after his debut in 1960-61. Engineer became a household name following his exploits of the 'blackcaps' in the fourth Test at Madras, during their tour of India in 1965. There he ended a string of low scores by scoring 90 while batting at no. 9. This was followed by Engineer's magnificent run against West Indies in their 1965 tour to India where, opening the innings in the third Test, Engineer displayed an extra-ordinary show of power and skill, attacking the star studded West Indian bowling line-up right from the very first session. By lunch, he was at 94 which he took to triple digit figures with a six.

These performances had made him a cynosure of all eyes. His talent, flamboyance and popularity coupled with his much spoken of good looks made him a big fish in the market of brand placements. Engineer was approached by several brands of which, the most popular deal was struck with 'Brylcreem'. Engineer thus became the first ever Indian sportsperson to endorse the product and second overall, after his idol and star English batsman, Denis Compton. This endorsement earned him the lasting moniker of 'Brylcreem Boy'. Engineer's venture in the line of brand endorsement remained long until when Sunil Gavaskar took his place to become Indian cricket's face of brand placement.

The very reason this ad features in this list is that Farokh Engineer with his Brylcreem ad in particular, pioneered the practice of roping in Indian cricketers to endorse non-Indian brands, something that we see of more often nowadays. For a British brand to rope in an Indian as its face was a 'coming of age' gamble to allure customers, that definitely didn't fail to yield results. Engineer had grown popular in England as well, which soon earned him a county contract for Lancashire.

The practice of Indian cricketers endorsing brands that started from here soon traversed rugged paths to carve a niche out for it...and when we talk of it, Farokh Engineer would definitely remain right there at the top, as much as Alyque Padamsee would in any general conversation encompassing the circuit of Indian advertisement.

2. Sunil Gavaskar and Imran Khan's 'unbeaten partnership' for 'Thumbs Up'

The two cricketing behemoths, India's Sunil Gavaskar and Pakistan's Imran Khan were brought together by the soft drink brand, 'Thumbs up' in what stayed aloft as one of the most iconic 'Thumbs up' advertisements ever. The 1980s print ad that was captioned "unbeaten partnership" featured Gavaskar and Khan in camaraderie and friendship, amidst the boil that Indo-Pak relations were in. It was certainly the flamboyance and charisma of Imran that made many India based brands to risk their run by playing a gamble on making him their face. Gavaskar, on the other hand, had grown up to be a giant ruling over the hearts of cricket lovers, all across the sub-continent. Those who loved the game in particular and knew it's intricacies couldn't have afforded to not be impressed by Gavaskar. He had a large fan base in Pakistan as well much like what Imran had in India.

Thus, this creative 'risk' taken by 'Thumbs up' had to play well, as it did and therefore, holds on to this date as one of the most iconic advertisements ever to have involved any Indian cricketer.

3. Sunil Gavaskar endorsing 'Dinesh Suitings'

Sunil Gavaskar was roped in by an arguably lesser known worsted suiting brand named 'Dinesh Suitings'. The 1980s brand then swayed along a wave of popularity and demand as the legendary 'little master' took it upon himself to promote the brand. In what remains to this date one of the most iconic cricketer-brand association, the Dinesh Suitings ad saw Gavaskar breaking into a few kids playing baseball and asking them for the bat, to which they readily agreed. Gavaskar then swayed the ball away for a home-run, only to find it replacing the ice-cream scoop of a passerby. The ad ended with Gavaskar giving away his prized autograph to calm down the fuming passerby. 'Take the world in your stride', as the ad said ; Sunil Gavaskar's legendary association with Dinesh Suitings definitely helped the brand 'to take the world in its stride'.

Fun fact: It was this particular ad featuring Sunil Gavaskar that stirred Mr. Krishna Kumar, a die-hard fan of Gavaskar, to name his newly-born son after the brand 'Dinesh Suitings'. This is how member of the 2007 T20 World Cup-winning team and current Tamil Nadu skipper Dinesh Karthik got his name.

4. Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and now Virat Kohli boosting up Boost's stakes

Who can ever forget the repetitive tagline of "Boost is the secret of my energy"? Probably no cricket fan of the 90s generation. Well, it's purely consequential to the face given to it by two of world cricket's greatest legends, Kapil Dev and Sachin Tendulkar.

In 1985, two years after winning the World Cup for India, Kapil Dev first took the brand to Indian household when he faced the camera for the first time to utter the famous tagline. The malt based drink by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare found for itself a firm cricket fanatic consumer base, particularly among the young kids.

In 1991, 'Boost' introduced another prodigious Indian cricketer in its lines who would later continue to be its most famous face for decades. After a brilliant run in Pakistan, New Zealand and England, 18-year-old Sachin Tendulkar had earned quite some popularity which the brand decided to bank upon, to get for itself the required business. Much like the Indian cricket team, Sachin didn't disappoint GSK either. Its sales increased by many folds and the tagline found voice in every other Indian kid's mouth.

Years later, continuing on its run of branding the best out of the best, Virat Kohli is now seen as the face of the brand. Over a span of three decades, faces might have changed but what remained perpetual is the trust that it has placed over cricketers, forming for itself an unsaid or rather said rule of breaking the deal with only cricketers to set the brand higher, something that all of them have duly done over the last 36 years. Another constant over all these years has been the tagline..."Boost is the secret of my energy", the only variation to it being the slight alteration of 'my' to 'our'. In our list of brand placements, 'Boost' essentially remains a brand that has scaled the zenith of success on ladders hold by Indian cricketers.

5. 'Jammy' endorsing 'Kissan' jam

How Rahul Dravid earned the nickname of 'Jammy' is quite an interesting tale to recount. His father, Mr. Sharad Dravid was an employee of the fruit jam brand 'Kissan' that had him in its fondness, quite early in life, so much so that whenever he was offered breakfast, he would invariably ask for some 'jam'. With friends and colleagues in the team noticing this trait, it didn't take them much time to start calling him 'Jammy'.

Jammy cemented this moniker for himself when later in his career, he was actually roped in as a brand ambassador by the same brand which his father used to work for, i.e. Kissan and particularly in obligation to his moniker which they didn't want to muddle, he was made the face of 'Kisan jam'. He was also heard saying that it was only after this advertisement that Javagal Srinath first called him 'Jammy' from where other team-mates picked up. Whichever way it be, this ad certainly had its way with Dravid and glued with him his famous moniker, as much as Dravid got his fans glued with the Unilever product, particularly the young kids that it targeted.

The 'Jam Jam Jammy' ad, as it was called, showed Dravid trying to get his hands on a can of jam, which, when spotted by his mother, got him some scolding. However, as adamant as he generally is to not lose his guard on field, in the ad too his stubbornness leads him to dress up as a girl, a Buddhist monk and a vampire asking for some jam from his mother, at the end of which he is recognized and receives the second quota of scolding. The fun filled advertisement portrayed the mischievous side of the on-field 'good boy' and managed to tickle the viewers' funny bones. The ad would end with the lines "freak out on Kisan jam ; ban jaao 'Jammy' ". Not sure if freaking out is what it intended to ensure, but it surely became the talk of the town and remains so to this very date.

6. "Hi! Mera naam Sourav Ganguly hai, bhoole toh nahi?"

"Hi! Mera naam Saurav Ganguly hain, bhoole toh nahi?" -- which cricket fan of the late 90s-early 2000s can forget this 2006 ad of Pepsi, in which Sourav Ganguly had contract with, televised a strong picture of what reverence and value 'Dada' held among his fans. Not quite often does one get to see an on-field controversy or an in-house rift coming out of it's confines to be presented before the masses in the form of a product advertisement, an experiment which Pepsi risked at the stake of a possible meltdown of its product value which, however, never happened.

An incredible presentation in the form of a reminder of how ready than ever Dada was to wear the national jersey again, kept the selectors at bay and his fans in anticipation. When Dada goes on to say "kya malum, hawa mein shirt ghumane ka aur ek mauka mil jaaye ?" (who knows, might just get another chance to twirl the shirt in air) it's a simultaneous double strike of nostalgia and anguish that used to not only take viewers back to a nostalgia trail but also put them on the front to make the selectors have a look at the long standing warrior of Indian cricket. Not long after the ad, that the former Indian captain was called back for the South Africa tour of 2006.

For its sheer presentation of courage and audacity, much as an epitome to what Dada's character had always been about, this advertisement remains one of the most iconic cricket ads ever and also one of the selected few that had the power of getting people to burst out into loud cheers, as soon as it made its way to the television screen. All of it having said, replying to Dada's question of "bhoole toh nahi ?", money can be put on the fact that not only Saurav Ganguly but this advertisement, too, would never be forgotten.

7. "Jaanta hain mera baap kaun hain ?"

(Do you know who is my father ?)

The ''Youngistaan meri jaan" campaign of Pepsi boomed its prominence among the young millennial cricket lovers. Enumerating all of its immensely popular advertisements, the "Jaanta hain mera baap kaun hain ?" advertisement would surely be there at the pinnacle. The age old adage was presented on screen, featuring MS Dhoni, Ishant Sharma, S Sreesanth and Virender Sehwag. The ad saw an amalgamation of three instances where Ishant, Sreesanth and Sehwag are ridiculed and 'overtaken' by 'dudes' whose fathers have powerful connection, while MS Dhoni dons the hat of a presenter to bring it to the viewers. While Ishant was overtaken by a fellow student who broke into the admission queue on the pretext of having a VIP father, Sreesanth's love got stolen on the streets by the son of a Commissioner whereas Virender Sehwag is hold back by the son of a minister who, for some reason, decides to get his hair done at a 'regular' saloon...not the fancy one...son of a minister, never mind !

The ad film announced for a lot of 2000s kids the arrival of Pepsi's long standing connection with Indian cricketers that, to this date, remains close to the hearts of arguably everyone whoever came across this ad at any point of time. This ad definitely managed to make way for 'Pepsi' to occupy a special and long-lasting position in every cricket fan's heart. The ad became immortal...and that's what the purpose of star faces are. Who knows it better than Pepsico !

8. MS Dhoni's chat with MS Dhoni

Ever wondered what would the MS Dhoni of 2005, a young bombastic lad from a small city with incredible expectations, talk about when he would meet the MS Dhoni of 2021, this time as one of India's most successful captain in the country's 89 year long history, having won two World Cups and one Champions' Trophy ? That's the exact question that the makers of this incredibly nostalgic Gulf Oil ad asked themselves and instead of looking out for answers, they decided to create it in-house. Thus, surfaced this recently launched advertisement that had people in tears, tears of happiness or sadness ? Well, it was left purely to the audience.

Brought out on the tenth anniversary of India's 2011 World Cup victory, the campaign, titled #GulfDhonixDhoni features the MS Dhoni of 2021 as the host, who is approached by his fanboy, the Dhoni of 2005. Dhoni of 2021 starts with praising his 2005 self for bagging a 'Man of the Series' in the first year of his career itself and also for his ransacking knock of 183 against Sri Lanka, where he batted for 46 overs after keeping wickets for 50 straight overs, in the heat. The conversation then goes around to the 2011 World Cup victory that, when narrated about by the elder Dhoni, lives the junior one in splits. It then takes a segue from cricket to Dhoni's another favourite, biking, and that's where Gulf Oil makes an entry, after 3 minutes and 33 seconds of the four minute video is over.

This innovative brainchild of the advertisers not only pushes the placement behind but also serves to be an epitome of what status and pedestal the demi-Gods of Indian society have reached. Putting in the forefront the story of a cricketer as large as that of the stature of MS Dhoni ensures maximum audience for the product, rather than summing it up with a simple endorsement and a cliched tagline. Gulf Oil and MS Dhoni, those who know the relation know how liberal the advertisements have been, often keeping the purpose of placement at the backseat and letting the Godly status of MS Dhoni drive it for them. Much like every other time, this time, too, it worked for the lubricant company.

From getting a short space for print ads at one point of time, to being the driver of digital ads, this advertisement clearly depicts the evolution that the scene has undergone. For all of these and many more, this ad shall remain a breakthrough in the context of advertisements featuring Indian cricketers.

9. 'Indiranagar ka Gunda'

CRED announced its arrival into the scene with some really enticing advertisements. Primarily playing in the IPL commercial space, the ads of 2020 featured Bollywood stars whereas in 2021, the team switched to the very core of the event that they were tapping on...cricketers. The mental giants of the advertisement industry, Tanmay Bhatt, Vishal Dayama, Devaiah Bopanna, Nupur Pai and Punit Chadha, collectively delivered a blast to make the ad film into the 'talk of the town', with radiances still being emitted by the ever-elegant Rahul Dravid.

Jim Sarbh starts it off with a metaphor, comparing the CRED payment rewards with something being as rare as Rahul Dravid's anger. But there he was, ready to accept yet another challenge, much like how he used to don any hat thrown at him by the management in his playing days. For the first time, people saw Dravid breaking anything else than the bowler's patience. He features as a hooligan rowdy in a road traffic chaos, where, irritated by the block, Dravid starts yelling at people and smashing other vehicles, stranded in the jam. The ad is finished off with Dravid yelling at everyone else a line that, within minutes, became as iconic as Gabbar's ''Yeh haath mujhe de de Thakur". He appears out of the sunroof and yells "Indiranagar ka Gunda hoon main", hitting the final nail in the coffin of his angered character.

The AIB team that was brought in to create something unique definitely poured their souls into the advertisement to take it out of the box. To tap on the anti-characteristics and create humour out of it is something that CRED has pioneered ; this ad being no different.

For a generation that's interested in imaginative contrasts, it's not a surprise that this 'masterpiece' hit 5.4 million views in a span of just three weeks, taking into account the YouTube numbers alone. As generations pass by and the legend of Rahul Dravid passes on with time, this video shall be one crazy treasure !

10. 'Real OGs': Credits to CRED for bringing 'OG' out of Prasad for second time...after Aamir Sohail incident, of course!

It's CRED again and it's the mastery of the same team that brought to us this one of it's kind creation, well CRED and 'one of its kind' goes as well as Ab de Villiers and saving RCB's fortunes. Not at all obscure !

The ad starts off again with Jim Sarbh comparing the rewards earned from CRED with the treat of seeing some of the 90s Indian team stalwarts in a 'boys' band'. The next thing you see on screen is Venkatesh Prasad mouthing a melody. He is then joined in by former Indian speedster and current ICC match referee, Javagal Srinath, former Indian left arm spinner Maninder Singh and former Indian wicket-keeper batsman, Saba Karim, all clad in whites, wearing funky look. To say it the least, an 'avatar' that you would have never imagined these cricketers to be in, had it not been for CRED and that's exactly how this brand has established itself. A comparison can be drawn to PepsiCo's 'Youngistaan Meri Jaan' ad on the lines that both featured cricketers' collective to make an appeal. But no other advertisement comes to mind that took cricketers to a field diametrically opposite to what they have been in for years. CRED not only experimented with that but the fact that it has yielded splendid results, speaks highly of how the audience space in India has evolved. No wonder that the ad hit 1.4 million views on YouTube in just one day.

CRED would be on the radar to be watched out for more such 'first time' archetypes of cricketers and actors and when a brand manages to keep it's viewers in anticipation for its advertisements, that's when it becomes behemoth.

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