The curious case of Prithvi Shaw – was it really a branding flaw?

Last Updated at: May 05, 2020

Prithvi Shaw, the much celebrated teenage cricketer who shot to glory recently for being the youngest cricketer to score a century in a Test Match, quickly became a sensation that businesses – from food to hospitals tried to cash on. While the case becomes an important milestone to understand legal repercussions of branding without consent, it also raises questions on how far can we take a person’s brand name in the context of a much celebrated national event.

Congratulatory messages or disguised advertising?

From cricket pitches to pitching food at the center of the case, lie several variations of his victory gently masqueraded, to promote several goods and services. For instance, Swiggy, the giant online food delivery mentioned ‘Firsts we will remember forever. The first bite of Rasmalai. First Prithvi Shaw innings.’ FreeCharge, the payment mechanism tweeted ‘Super Charged Shaw’ and Amul called itself ‘Prithvi ka favourite makkhan’ Although it is seemingly an adulatory message, it gave a right to Baseline Ventures to target the company for what is known as ambush marketing. A fair defense though is that these websites were only adding a fresh and rather enjoyable take on the recent success of the rising cricket star.

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Ambush Marketing: What it means and Whether Swiggy, FreeCharge can be held guilty of it
Ambush marketing is used to describe a tactic wherein a company tries to encash on an event that has official sponsors. Thus, what Baseline ventures is alleging is that Swiggy, FreeCharge and the likes of it that used Prithvi Shaw’s reference, were seeking to ride on the publicity value of this major event without having contributed to the financing of the event through sponsorship. Their official notice stated – Our Client has absolute and exclusive right to fully market and monetize all commercial rights associated with the Player in all territories globally including without limitation, media and broadcasting rights (on all platforms like TV, Radio, internet, social media, multimedia, books and publications, outdoor advertising, print, mobile phones, digital etc), sponsorship and advertising rights, licensing and merchandising rights, gaming rights, media footage rights, apparel rights, website rights etc.

The company has also been reported to say that they received email requests from several companies on whether they could congratulate Prithvi, as opposed to individual congratulatory messages which Baseline Ventures did not have a problem with. They also emphasized on the point that regardless of the fact that Prithvi is still a teenager and just a test match old, is no ground that the company wouldn’t fight for what it deems to be an unfair use of his brand value.

Blurring lines of marketing tactics and personal brand values
The case raises a crucial question – whether the creative reporting of a person’s success in an event of national or international repute with official sponsors backing them can be said to be violative of rights? Although Baselines Ventures has pressed charges against the erring companies with a whopping compensation of Rs. 1 crore each, the real answer to how far do we stretch the aspect of marketing rights and a person’s brand value remains to be seen with the adjudication of this case.

Avani Mishra is a graduate in law from the National Law Institute University, Bhopal. She qualified the Company Secretary course with an All India Rank 1 and is a recipient of the President’s Gold Medal for her academic distinctions. She also holds a B.Com degree with a specialization in Corporate Affairs and Administration.