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  • Batting and Buying: Cricket as a Visual Metaphor in Indian Advertising
  • Rohitashya Chattopadhyay (bio)

This paper analyzes a set of Indian television commercials to understand the significance of using cricket as a visual metaphor in advertising. The analysis recognizes that advertising helps to determine the meaning of goods sold in the market as well as provide a positive vision of a capitalist lifestyle. The various connotations of cricket are explained, as they are attached to the game when it is used as a metaphor in advertising. The paper concludes that cricket, as represented in Indian advertising, is a visual metaphor for capitalist competition or a capitalist way of life. Thus, the product’s association with cricket playing images makes it appear as a partner in the competition and a reward for victory.


On the 23rd of October 2003, newspapers across India announced that the country’s cricket team might be touring their neighbor Pakistan, after a gap of fourteen years, due to the resumption of sporting ties between the two countries (IANS, October 23, 2003). The planned visit did occur and was an indication that the two nations are continuing efforts to settle their political differences. The connotations of the game cricket are both peaceful and violent in such a situation. The peaceful connotations derive from the fact that such a sporting tour is a sign of the political tension between the two neighbors being on a downward trail. The violent connotations are connected to cricket’s role in the performance of nationalism in the South Asian subcontinent. That is, the national cricket team can be considered analogous to the armed forces fighting to defend India against Pakistan. Consequently, the act of playing cricket becomes a metaphor for engaging in warfare or even the performance of Indian-ness in a non-military or non-political context. A similar comparison was made between the Indian cricket team competing in the 1999 World Cup and the Indian Army fighting the Kargil War against Pakistan (Wright, 2003).

The symbolism of Indian cricket has been utilized in various ways. One example is its use in Indian advertising, which will be the focus of this paper. In other words, advertisers use cricket to promote the consumption of products. Thus, product positioning is hinged on a particular representation of cricket. My principal goal in the following pages will be to describe such representations and unfold the relationship between a sport like cricket and consumption.

I begin with an explanation of advertising’s social role, which includes serving as a visual representation of consumerism. This is followed by a brief history of Indian advertising. It is said that contemporary Indian advertising is passing through a phase where emphasis is placed on marketing the product through the aesthetic depiction of a narrative idea that speaks to the targeted consumer. Targeted visualization may not be a novel technique in advertising per se, but it was not always prevalent during the fifty years of Indian advertising history (Mazzarella, 2003).

In the case of this paper, I will describe a set of Indian television commercials where cricket is an essential ingredient of the narrative idea that is used for targeted visualization. Moreover, cricket’s symbolic meaning is elucidated through the overall narrative of these commercials. In other words, the narrative depends on cricket for its own constitution, and it simultaneously provides an indication of the meaning signified through cricket. However, my ultimate goal is to uncover the symbolic meaning of cricket, and I will utilize the description of the narratives in this regard.

Furthermore, the focus will be on understanding cricket’s role as a visual metaphor, which is used to create a symbolic image or sign value that is then associated to a product. It is important to note, in this regard, that I consider cricket as a visual metaphor—instead of merely a metaphor—because I will primarily examine the visual language of the chosen television commercials; although, the verbal utterances will be taken into account as well. Consequently, the third section will be geared towards presenting a theoretical framework for understanding visual metaphors used in advertising. The fourth section provides an introduction to Indian cricket...