As millions of sports fans tune into a series of five-day cricket matches between England and India, no one is watching the latter's favorite sport more closely than Coca-Cola India. The marketer is eagerly waiting for its new brand ambassador, India's most famous cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, to make cricket history by becoming the first player to ever score 100 runs in a single game 100 times.
As soon as that happens, Coke will unleash a big campaign celebrating the feat, including commemorative cans picturing Mr. Tendulkar's greatest hits.
A "century" in cricket refers to a batsman scoring 100 runs during a single game, and Mr. Tendulkar, who has done it 99 times so far in his 22 -year career, is known as the "master blaster" for his extraordinary run. Coke is confident that he'll hit another century at some point during the current tournament between India and England that started July 21, and in keeping with cricket's snail's pace, will last almost two months.
"The country will obviously celebrate when he does, so let's make it iconic and truly make it a moment to remember," said Kamlesh Sharma, general manager-public affairs and communication for Coca-Cola India. "It's just a question of when, not a question of whether."
Coke plans to roll out 10 cans, each dedicated to one of Mr. Tendulkar's most memorable and significant centuries and handpicked by the batsman himself. A total of 6.5 million cans will be distributed, of which 800,000 will feature his record-breaking century. Each set of cans will display an image of Mr. Tendulkar from the respective match, the name of the opposing team, the year, and the number of runs he scored. The first nine cans will be released over the next two weeks.
Mr. Sharma said he expects the final can, with the image of Mr. Tendulkar hitting his 100th century, to be manufactured and released within a week of the big accomplishment.
He'll have plenty of opportunities. The ongoing tournament includes a total of four Test Matches, lasting an interminable five days each. Each five-day Test Match has two innings, which each count as a game. There will also be five international games, lasting a mere full day each, with breaks for lunch and tea time. So that 's 13 chances to score a century. The first Test Match just ended, sans century, giving Mr. Tendulkar 11 more opportunities to hit his highly-anticipated 100.
McCann Worldgroup India's Executive Chairman-CEO Prasoon Joshi, whose songs and scripts have made him a Bollywood star in India, is personally creating Coke's TV, print and digital campaign explaining the idea behind the 10 cans.
Mr. Sharma said Mr. Tendulkar, who starred in a Coke-sponsored school fund-raising effort this year, is known for his sincerity, talent, and "placing country before self." He said, "These are also the virtues the company represents."
The campaign to celebrate Mr. Tendulkar's cricketing feat marks the first time Coke India has featured a celebrity on the company's products. Anupama Ahluwalia, VP-marketing at Coca-Cola India, said, "We are making this exception for one of India's great sons."
Ironically, Mr. Tendulkar, 38, worked for rival Pepsi Cola until 2009, when Pepsi dropped him in favor of younger stars to appeal to India's big youth market with a campaign called "Youngistaan." Now Coke is using Mr. Tendulkar's quest for a 100th century to target an even broader audience of cricket fans.
Fans of other sports may wonder how a player can repeatedly score 100 runs a game. In cricket, a batsman keeps hitting the balls that are bowled to him, and is only out if he misses the ball and it hits the wicket behind him (or if he hits a high ball that is caught on the fly). Mr. Tendulkar is also a master of scoring multiple runs at a time by hitting home-run-like "fours" and "sixes," in which the ball crosses the boundary line after bouncing, for four runs, or without bouncing, for six runs.