'If cricket is a religion, Sachin is God' isn't just the title of a book - it is a well embraced reality for cricket crazy Indians. One can only imagine a fan's reaction if he were to hear the voice of his idol on the other end of the phone one fine day.
To make this connection with cricket's demigods a reality (and gain brand recall in the process), Idea Cellular has launched an elaborate four phase campaign created by Lowe Lintas to connect the public with select members of the IPL's Mumbai Indians team.
These numbers were popularised during the matches on TV, on digital media as well as press and outdoor. On calling these numbers, a cricket freak gets to hear the voice (an automated one, notwithstanding) of his favourite cricketer, and he can then leave a message for the sportsman. SMSes were also invited. These calls and SMSes will be shortlisted, with the best few standing to win prizes such as a trip to South Africa to watch the IPL matches or meals with the cricketers. Some will even get a chance to get a call from their idols.
'Calling' out to viewers
Lowe and Idea divided the advertising into four phases. The first was a teaser comprising three ads ('Girls', 'Kids' and 'Old Couple') that show instances where regular people find excuses/means to call their favourite cricketers with such ownership that one would think they are buddies. A mysterious 'Coming soon' wrapped up these.
The second phase had the three cricketers - Tendulkar, Singh (or 'Bhajji' as he is known) and Khan - advertising their respective phone numbers in a placard style, asking consumers to call/SMS and share what they feel. The third phase showed the cricketers calling back and catching the fans by surprise. While Khan reaches a middle aged man in the middle of a meeting, Tendulkar has a hard time convincing a government employee on the other end of the phone that he indeed is THE Sachin Tendulkar. Another one shows the berserk reaction of a fan on hearing Tendulkar's voice.
The fourth and final phase has Idea's brand ambassador Abhishek Bachchan stepping into the picture. In one commercial, he is seen practicing before a mirror on how suave he shall be when he addresses Sachin over the phone (but ends up like a squeaky toy when the call gets through), while the second one has him making inane conversation excitedly with Jayasuriya.
Apart from the TVCs, a microsite was created on Idea's website (www.ideacellular.com). The microsite (http://bythepeople.in/talktoyourmumbaiindians/) informs people how to avail the opportunity of connecting with the players. Here, visitors can also obtain gossip on the players, participate in quizzes to check which of the Mumbai Indians' personality is closest to theirs, or even win Idea recharge packs and other goodies/merchandise. The contests also include the 'Roaming IPL Offer', 'Mumbai Indians and You' and 'Meet & Greet with Mumbai Indians'. Idea has also created the 'Yellow Cap' awards for the title of the biggest fan.
Ringing in the results
So far, Idea has received 2.5 million (25 lakh) calls, out of which half were local calls (Mumbai, Maharashtra and Goa), while the rest were from other areas, including non-Idea territories such as North East India (where Idea shall soon have a presence). The company claims to have received calls even from markets beyond India, such as Pakistan, but these are miniscule.
Through this kind of mechanism, people can send in their greetings, tips and share their affection for the cricketers. "The thought was to give people an experience to hear the authentic voices of these players," Shrivastava says. Tendulkar leads the pack: 50 per cent of the 25 lakh calls have been for him, followed by Bhajji and Zaheer.
Idea outsourced a team of 20 to begin with (a number that has now been increased), to quickly scan through the calls and SMSes. According to Idea officials, as it is difficult to check every call, a fair representation of the calls is being screened. The printouts of the most interesting calls are then shortlisted and forwarded to the cricketers, who in turn choose the final winners. The winners will be announced in due course via the media, although no communication (advertising) will be rolled out for the same.
"This is a consumer response device that has worked well for us," Shrivastava says, "as one may remember that it was Idea that got them close to their idols."