Azure Allure

TR Vivek is a Bengaluru-based journalist
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Why are most IPL team kits some shade of blue? It makes for bad TV and shows poor business sense.

Sports Editor Akshay Sawai talks of KKR’s changed strip bringing them better luck on the field. But from a merchandise point of view, the sportswear makers in IPL, and the teams themselves, have been rather low on sartorial inventiveness. Why are most team kits some shade of blue?

Lalit Modi, if you are listening, two opposing teams on the ground outfitted in the same colours makes for boring TV. Of the eight teams, only three in IPL3 won’t turn up in blue, and for different reasons.

Red is pouty Preity Zinta’s favourite colour, and Kings XI Punjab’s Arsenal-lookalike shirt also suits its principal sponsor, Emirates airline; Chennai Super King’s choice of canary yellow is, of course, dictated by the colour of team owner India Cements’ bestselling grey powder bag, Coromandel Super Strong; consumer research told the Daredevils to go for red and black; and a little bird from Vittal Mallya Road tells us Royal Challengers’ red and gold was recommended by a trusted astrologer.

It seems IPL is allergic to green, a very common hue in the sportswear business. Or perhaps Indian cricket fans don’t want to be reminded of Pakistan in any way.

Football, and for that matter, most ballgames have the tradition of home and away jerseys. Ergo, when Manchester United host Liverpool at Old Trafford, the Scousers sport grey or white to allow United its iconic red at home. Besides adding, well, some colour, and being spectator friendly, home and away clothing has a business logic as well. In 2006, Cricket Australia and its apparel sponsor realised that official merchandise sales were tapering because the team jersey of any vintage looked much the same—yellow with green lettering. So the Aussies shifted to bottle green with Adidas’ trademark three stripes in glitzy gold. Nike’s new Team India uniform, in a darker shade of blue, is motivated by a similar concern.

What’s the big deal, you ask. Consider this: Europe’s six biggest football teams generate revenues in excess of $1 billion every year selling replica shirts alone. On average, the English football fan, from Millwall to Macclesfield, spends the equivalent of Rs 3,200 a year on team shirts. Lalit Modi’s strong arm forced SET Max to double the TV rights fee in just the second year of IPL, but the long-term profitability of franchises may depend on their ability to sell overpriced home and away Puma jerseys to eight-year-old kids. Just ask David Beckham or Real Madrid.