Sunday, October 2, 2011

Master Of Puppets

I just spotted a great post by Tim Holt, it is called Cricket Marketing 101- Use The Name Of Sachin Tendulkar, in which Tim de-constructs the cheap and obvious strategies employed by Shoaib Akhtar’s PR consultants, who use the name of Sachin Tendulkar and the remote-controllability of his easily manipulable zealots, to increase the sales of his silly little book, and the hype around it. On this occasion Tim also mentions how bloggers more or less blatantly exploit Sachin’s name to trigger a deluge of blog visitors.
From the top of my head I can name several blogs who played that card. I did that, too, as a rather obvious pisstake on this strategy of “no given f*k + little effort = many clicks”; put Sachin in the title and gazed at the jump in visitor numbers with disblief. It is hilarious, and it gives you a feeling of power over the masses, to summon them just by pronouncing the magical two words, but at the same time it is also scary to get overrun by a raging mob, and logically copping a fair bit of stick from them as well. Tim, in his article, calls them fanbois, I used to call them “Sachin zombies” and Sachin the “zombie master”, and if you adopt the role of a high priest, by singing his gospel and giving the Sachin sermon, you can control them as well, which is exactly what these bloggers are doing. The same crazy effect does, BTW, also apply to Shahid Afridi.
Which means that the current constellation of Tendulkar, Akhtar and Afridi involved in one and the same incident is getting mirrored as a superangry multi-climax in the visitor figures of any cricket-related medium. This peak in the traffic stats, and subsequent slump, also seems to suggest the other way round that the respective audience doesn’t care about much else (but I guess most people I personally talk to are “meta” cricket fans, who are interested in cricket in general and will click any headline that promises a good read).
What I find interesting as well is how different the priorities of the fanbois are, if you compare Sachin and Afridi as players, their image, personality, reputation and aura, and what they have accomplished in their careers. But I guess it takes a bunch of bored sociologists to analyse the motivation of the two kinds of fanatics, and their reasons for picking these two specific, opposite types of national sports icons to idolise.
But back to Tendulkar, the tactic of utilising his name while actually not giving a shit could be observed excellently when Sachin had made his ODI 200. Everybody wanted to have their share of the traffic cake, and Sachin posts kept popping up on blogs on which you would otherwise not find a single article about him, let alone India in general. Some even posted two posts in a row about him, making it fairly obvious that they were just trying to stay at the top of everybody’s blogrolls *ahem*.
Most bloggers are amateurs, hobby writers who don’t earn a single penny with their texts. So why this frenzy, this anxiety, if you couldn’t care less about the player? Apparently the blogger’s currency, in which his or her efforts get rewarded, is attention, reputation, response, approval, and the great summoning powers described above; measurable by the number of clicks, comments and shares. Shoaib Akhtar however is milking the holy Sachin cow for real monetary profit, measurable in his bank account, and willingly aided by anybody who picks up his cheap manoeuvre and helps him deliver the word to the potentially outraged.
I would say Akhtar 1, Bloggers 0
And while we, the media, the bloggers, readers, consumers and Akhtar, are getting lost in this secondary theatre of war, there is a guy whose market value benefits most from these permanently and continuously bubbling emotions, which provide him with seemingly eternal public omnipresence… his name is The Little Master, and he needn’t even pull the strings :)
Contributed by Wes
Follow Wes on Twitter @WesPFCNFS
Wes blogs about cricket @ playforcountrynotforself

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