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Airtel to be title sponsor for the Delhi Half Marathon

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | September 17, 2008
The marathon, which has been sponsored by Hutch (now rechristened Vodafone) for the last three years, will now be backed by Airtel. A television commercial is to go on air today

One & #BANNER1 & # of the world's richest and most prestigious events, the 4th Delhi Half Marathon, which will take place on November 9, is to change hands in terms of sponsorships. The 21.097 km race has been backed by telecom player Hutch (now Vodafone) for the last three years. This year, the backing will be provided by the country's largest telecom player, Airtel. Airtel has signed a sponsorship contract of three years for the marathon.

A television commercial for the Delhi Half Marathon will go on air today. In an exclusive chat with afaqs!, Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan (Chandru), head, brand and media, Bharti Airtel, reveals that apart from television, the marketing campaign will also be rolled out in other media, such as print, outdoor and radio.

On being questioned about the ad spend for this initiative, which is supposed to be one of the big ones for the brand, he says that it is reasonably huge.

The new TVC, which has been put in place by Airtel's creative agency, Rediffusion DY&R, shows children leaving all that they're doing to run. The music for the ad has been composed by AR Rahman. The maestro has utilised only percussion in the entire track - no other instruments have been employed. The film has been executed by Cutting Edge Films, and has been directed by Farouk Aljoffery.

An on-ground activation has also been planned, wherein barrier bins have been placed at strategic locations in malls and colleges. People will get a chance to register for the marathon, if they break a barrier by tossing it in the bin and run past a barrier to cross the 'Joy of Running' line.

Airtel finds an extension of its brand in this initiative. Chandru says, "Airtel has always been about breaking barriers - mental, physical and geographical. The nature of the sport allows us to bring forth the very values for which our brand stands. If one remembers, in our childhood, it used to be so much about running - running to catch the school bus, running to play. We have tried to bring those memories of running back, with an idea to motivate the viewer to participate in the marathon." The activation thought lies in the idea of the 'Joy of Running'.

Chandrashekhar Radhakrishnan

Anil Singh Procam International is the promoter of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, and was also responsible for the promotion of the Hutch Delhi Half Marathon. Could the objectives for the telecom players sponsoring the event be the same?

Anil Singh, managing director, Procam International, tells afaqs!, "Airtel has different objectives - they see the event as an extension of their brand. Delhi being Airtel's real home, it will help the brand build a deeper connect. With each year, the event has only moved up another notch. So, an association with an event with such international stature only makes a huge leadership statement, be it any brand."

On Airtel's association with the half marathon, Ramanuj Shastry, national creative director, Rediff, says, "Airtel has never owned a property of such stature; owning a property for any brand is extremely essential in today's time."

Talking about the creative for the commercial on the marathon, Shastry says, "The nature of the brand, Airtel, is intrusive and is about bringing down barriers of creed, colour etc. A marathon, which is about so many people coming together, and not just one person running, is a thought which resonated with the brand's philosophy. So, it wasn't too much of an effort to look for an association between the marathon and Airtel." Shastry revelas that both, he and Sagar Mahabaleshwarkar, national creative director, Rediff, and Shastry's creative partner, are contented with the creative.

In the first year, the event attracted 4,000 entries for the half marathon, which increased to around 8,000 in the second year. Ten thousand running places were on offer in the third year, and the figure is expected to be oversubscribed this year. The number of running places has gone up to 30,000, compared to last year's 28,500.

Registrations will begin on September 10 and close on October 15, or as soon as running places for each race category are filled up, whichever is earlier.

While Airtel is the title sponsor, Prasar Bharti is the broadcast partner; the channel partners are CNBC-TV18 and IBN7. The Times of India is the print partner; Standard Chartered Bank is the financial services partner; Reebok is the training and sportswear partner; Radio Mirchi is the radio partner; Indiatimes.com is the Internet partner; and the hospitality partner is Le Meridien.

The Airtel Delhi Half Marathon is one of the richest half marathons in the world - the prize money this year is US$210,000, which has been upped by US$50,000 from last year. Ratified by AIMS (Association of International Marathons and Distance Races) and recipient of the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) Gold Label, the half marathon attracts some big names in the long distance running circuit from around the world. It also has a separate prize fund for Indian athletes.

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