Apple Inc. (AAPL) may symbolize the highest ideals of technology and dominate the market in the U.S., but 8,000 miles away, India is a completely different story. The brand is either scoffed at as pretentious/overrated or perceived as a desirable status symbol that offers little value for money. Indians are known to be pragmatic spenders, and Apple’s prices, inflated by customs duties, cannot compete with the significantly cheaper, feature-rich, customizable Android options offered by Chinese companies. Keep in mind, the average price of a smartphone sold in India is $161, according to IDC.
Apple doesn’t report its revenue for India, but CEO Tim Cook told CNBC in January it exceeded $2 billion last year. It is estimated to have an around 2% market share.
But this isn’t a problem Apple intends to ignore, especially since it’s a market of over 400 million smartphone users. Cook has called the growth potential in India “phenomenal” and said Apple plans on taking on the challenge with “all of our might.” The company has begun assembling some phones and started an app accelerator in Bengaluru, cut the price of the iPhone XR and plans to open retail stores.
There’s still a question of branding, and Apple has chosen to use the warm feelings that cricket evokes in most Indians. In a country this diverse, there are few things as universally beloved as the game that some refer to as one of India’s religions.
The cricket world cup tournament is underway in the U.K., and Apple aired a new campaign during a match played by India. The ad opens with the words “Our Game, Shot on iPhone,” and we see young boys in different environments playing cricket (women play cricket too, Apple). Some have gear, others are barefoot. While some are on a cricket field, others are on the beach or using makeshift wickets. It’s a common trope in ads to show people of different backgrounds and what unites them. The images play over a reggae song by British band 10cc. The lyrics repeated are “I don’t like cricket, oh no. I love it.” It is quintessentially everyman and the complete opposite of the prevailing image the company has in the country.
“It’s the spirit of India, captured in a game, a love story that spans more than a billion hearts. The celebration of cricket, like nowhere else all shot on iPhone. #ShotoniPhone,” wrote the company in a schmaltzy post on Twitter.
Apple knows it can’t win India over by appealing to its cost-conscious brains, so it’s aiming for the hearts. It remains to be seen if eventually, in the future, Indians like most of the U.S. say they don’t like Apple, they love it.
Of course, this isn’t the first time an American company has used cricket in its Indian ads. This one by Nike is an all-time classic.