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This programme is brought to you by Idea Cellular

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media | August 28, 2008
Apart from sponsoring several television shows, Idea is also associating itself with on-ground events in smaller towns. Do we smell a change in Idea Cellular's media strategy?

October & #BANNER1 & # 2006 saw the launch of Idea presents Jodee Kamaal Ki, a game show on STAR Plus. This year, Idea sponsored two TV shows, Idea Dhoom Macha De and Idea presents Fear Factor: Khatron Ke Khiladi. In June 2008, Idea was also roped in as the title sponsor for the India-Sri Lanka cricket series, and the series itself was branded as the Idea Cup. Some other properties that Idea has supported include Idea IIFA Awards and Idea Star Singers (on Asianet in Kerala) and Idea Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (on Zee Marathi).

Yes, sponsorships are what have been cooking in Idea Cellular's marketing kitchen for quite some time now. Though Idea continues with mass media advertising, one can't help but notice how the brand is steadily involving itself in myriad sponsorships (particularly title sponsorships) across reality shows on television, sports properties and on-ground events in smaller towns.

Take the Idea Vraj Mela in Gujarat or Idea presents Jalsa, a 12 city classical music concert in association with the IMA (Indian Music Academy), for instance. In addition to these, annual Idea Rocks India music concerts have been organised for the past three years, featuring performances by prominent names in the Indian music industry.

Are all these harbingers of a change in Idea's media strategy?

"Yes, with a fast growing pan-India presence, we are becoming more and more national. This makes television rather cost effective for us, giving us wider reach," Pradeep Srivastava, chief marketing officer, Idea Cellular, tells afaqs!

"Having said that, gone are the days when a marketer launched a TVC and the world sat up and took notice. The new, intensely competitive environment demands that we do something big in addition to the usual mass media advertisements." Srivastava adds that there are many more modes of consumer engagement that a brand can leverage.

Title sponsorships, particularly for anything to do with Indian music, films or cricket, while giving an edge to the brand with respect to eyeballs, brand recall and brand engagement, also serve a bigger purpose. "They help us associate with a 'religion' bigger than the brand can ever hope to be and, in turn, the spirit of the event rubs off on the brand at a subliminal level," says Srivastava.

The Idea Cup, for instance, helps reach across to sports lovers and the rub-off on the brand is huge. Even Idea's association with Khatron Ke Khiladi helped the brand associate itself with a different genre (adventure sports), lending the brand a sporty, cool personality. Idea IIFA Awards, on the other hand, helped the brand gain a global imagery and connect.

Association with music based events or reality shows is more strategic than that for Idea. According to the brand executives, music is already a buzzing mantra in the mobile world, what with caller tunes, ringtones and full song downloads doing the rounds. Soon, music will be also available in a superior digital manner on mobile phones. "So, a music association is very relevant to our category," explains Srivastava.

With video clippings of shows on mobile phones slated to become the next big thing, telecom operators will benefit by associating with 'spicy' reality shows, which will induce subscribers to download clips onto their phones for repeat viewing.

Idea is also set to launch technologies that help in live streaming of various celebrations to the mobile, including Siddhivinayak 'darshan' during the Ganeshotsav in Mumbai. Therefore, such ground level activity associations are, in a sense, groundwork for Idea's upcoming plans.

"Direct engagement is always better than a monologue," concludes Srivastava, "especially in our case, when we have such a diverse audience setů from industrialists to the poor tea vendor." In these cases, there is a need to associate the brand with mass level activities that help in building a certain kind of image and recall.

Idea's media agency is Lintas Media Group, which looks after the mass media work in addition to other activities. Some on-ground initiatives, however, are driven inhouse at Idea.

In the past, some other telecom operators have also tried to leverage the arena of sponsorships. One may recall Airtel Bol Baby Bol, which featured music composer and singer Adnan Sami as its host. Airtel Presents Bigg Boss is another 'big' property for the GEC, Colors. Tata Indicom, too had flagged off a show, Tata Indicom Ek Se Badhkar Ek: Jalwe Sitaron Ke, some time ago.

Sponsoring so many events and shows at the same time may perhaps leave Idea spreading itself too thin. Whether the gamble pays off in the long run is for time to tell.