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BCCI objects to ad featuring cricketers

Nagraj Gollapudi

August 22, 2012

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The BCCI has asked Sahara, the national team sponsors, to withdraw a television advertisement of the company that features five of the top Indian cricketers. The advertisement, it says, is a direct infringement of the sponsorship rights agreement because of what it calls the "unauthorized inclusion of players".

In a letter addressed to Sahara India Financial Corporation Ltd., dated August 20, the board has also said it was concerned by criticism of the ad in public fora and claimed that one of the players featured in the ad was unhappy with his "portrayal", saying it was in "bad taste."

The commercial, which has been running on Indian television through this month, features Indian captain MS Dhoni along with Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli. They are endorsing Sahara "Q" Shops, a retail line of Sahara Group that is aimed at being the alternative to adulterated food products; their roles have them pointing out the effects of adulterated foods, including death and disability.

The BCCI said it was "surprised" about this since the sponsorship agreement had a clause that, while allowing players to promote Sahara as a group, barred them from endorsing or promoting individual products and services.

"The featuring and participation of the Players in the said advertisement is in breach of clause 3 (n) read with clause 3 (p) of the Agreement since (i) said advertisement does not relate to you or your permitted assignee and (ii) the advertisement constitutes a personal endorsement by the Players of Sahara "Q" Shop, its services and products," the letter said. "While you invoked your entitlement under Clause 3 (n) and obtained the co-operation of BCCI and the Players as a result thereof, your subsequent acts of enabling/causing a group company to exploit the right in a grossly commercial manner not only contravenes the terms but also goes against the very spirit of the Agreement."

The letter also stated that one of the players, who was not named, was upset about the way he was exploited in the ad and had lodged a "complaint" with the BCCI. "We have received a complaint from one of the players who raised a serious grievance that the said advertisement and his portrayal therein is in bad taste. Further, there has been a certain amount of criticism directed against the advertisement which the BCCI has become aware of," the letter stated.

The BCCI asked Sahara to resolve the issue by taking the advertisement off air with immediate effect or risk facing legal action. "In the circumstances and in accordance with the terms of the Agreement, we hereby call upon you upon receipt of this letter, to discontinue, withdraw, block or cause to be discontinued, withdrawn or blocked, with immediate effect, the said advertisement failing which we would be constrained to take such steps against you as may be advised in accordance with law and the terms of the Agreement."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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