by Ann Marie Gardner

In an unusual chain of events, and somewhat of an outsourcing reversal, this Oddpodz marketing staffer helped infuse India with another well-known American brand. The Washington Redskins cheerleaders were invited to become the Bangalore Royal Challengers T20 Cricket cheerleading team. As a former brand ambassador and member of the squad, I spent 18 days in India supporting the team in this goodwill and marketing effort.

In T20, gone are the days of British tea and wearing white pants during a five-day game. The India Premier League (IPL) has shortened the game to three hours, signed a billion-dollar broadcasting contract with Sony, and the international roster of players are treated like rock stars; all part of what we in the United States know as “sportainment.” This Western trend is the reason they contracted out for the job of Cheerleading Team.

This was my seventh trip overseas with the cheerleaders and as a more seasoned traveler, my purpose in being there was to assist the director and team in everything. To the inexperienced members, India represented an overwhelming number of things to deal with in a small amount of time; malaria, dehydration, or language barriers. I did what I could to fix problems and alleviate the “static” so the ladies could maintain the glamour and attitude of entertainment, brand ambassadors—the NFL cheerleader brand.

The trip also gave me a great occasion to make some branding observations around the culture, market and environment.

The Redskin Cheerleader brand today is entirely due to the Redskins’ current Director of Entertainment, Donald Wells. I’ve worked with Donald since 1997, I’ve been in marketing since 1992, and I spent some time reflecting on similarities in branding “products” across commercial and geographic lines. Yes, even cheerleading. And what does it take to successfully export this entertainment product to a country across the globe that resembles ours in . . . hardly any way at all?

3 important branding tips when traveling to a foreign venue.

1. Be certain about what your brand is and what it represents. Donald refused to entertain ideas about redesigning the uniforms to cover more skin, or modifying the dance moves to be more conservative for the Indian audience, even to the executives who paid for the trip, and under threat of public protests. If IPL had asked for American cheerleaders who acted like Indian women, what would have been the point of going?

2. Don’t dilute the product just because everyone doesn’t love it. This is tantamount to abandoning your core market in an effort to gain marginal appeal with non-targeted ones. Don’t fail what made you famous.

3. Don’t lose composure under pressure. Even when pressed by big boys like ABC News who sought desperately to get him to discuss and elaborate on the “scandalous uniforms and dance moves,” Donald’s praise for the team, as well as the optimism about the change this represents for the Indian people and their national sport, proved his commitment to what sports entertainment is all about; just having a good time.

Fortunately, the brand, the team, and the director did stay true and, if we needed proof, the tour has been extended for the duration of the T20 season. Thanks to Donald and the team’s solid sense of who they are, the choreography will continue to include hip rolls and bending over, and the uniforms will remain as small as they are now, because anything less—or more, as the case may be—wouldn’t be the real NFL.