A short take on the brand Chennai Super Kings (CSK), not much on their cricket.
Right from my university days, I have observed a clear polarity when it comes to the fan-loyalty for the Indian Premier league (IPL) - CSK fans (mostly tamil-speakers) and non-CSK fans who mostly aligned themselves to cheer for Mumbai (as though the remaining teams don't matter much). CSK has established itself into such a humongous brand that people who don't admire CSK have to find a real big cricketing monster to counter it. And, invariably they shield themselves with the stupendous career of the country's greatest cricket icon - Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin is probably India's greatest ever brand, may be after Gandhi, but CSK fans would want Sachin to get a golden duck if Sachin is marking his stance against a CSK bowler.
CSK, in my opinion has very carefully cultivated an image - as a pack of disciplined and professional athletes. When almost every other team had attractive actresses for the TV presenters to turn to, CSK's dugout had no eye-candy. I have seen CSK fans identifying their team as a "chauvinistic" bunch stating the above, but I think the point is CSK has it's cricket right and that there was no need for other crowd-pullers. Not tinkering much with the player composition every season is a very good culture that nurtures team loyalty. Sometimes I am terribly confused if I am watching Kolkata or Pune playing if Dada is up at the toss.
There was one striking feature in CSK's promo videos that are broadcast on FM Radios, Television or available at large on Youtube (like this, this, this) - Chennai's nativity. They have a very catchy and truly Chennai-esque theme like - "Whistle podu", "Six podu", "Raise your handsu" etc. A fair look at the promo videos would suggest how brand CSK connects with its fans - the videos are so full of life, they are so full of Chennai. They are packed with so much of ethnographic details unique to life at Chennai - temples gopurams, cinema wall posters, beach, pookadai, teakadai, isthiri-petti, gully cricket, kolam, traffic, cut-out culture, dappanguthu, central station, autowallahs, street kids etc. The focus in these videos is not too much on the players who represent CSK but on the fan who cheers up for CSK. Also it features women of all ages portrayed as fans of cricket in general and CSK fanatics specifically. Showing a portrait of a 65 year old grandma with fingers on her lips whistle adichufying is something special - All these quickly establish the fact that CSK's brand of cricket touches all lives in Chennai - no bars on age, gender, social class etc. The visual culture presented doesn't feature any kind of "eliticism" and it all looks like a perfect amalgam of cricket and life in general at Chennai.
And then there is Dhoni whose aura as a leader is unsurmountable in the limits of IPL. It looks easy but the way Rajinikanth's film persona was blended into Dhoni's cricket persona ("podhuvaga en manasu thangam" score, for example) is something remarkable. This should be something unique to Chennai that might not work elsewhere in the world with any sports team or film star.
Ofcourse, for a brand to sustain, the team has to perform and CSK delivers. It sometimes looks like many of us CSK fans take their performance on the field for granted.