Reebok India: On the run

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | June 02, 2009
The latest commercial from Reebok India is banking on 'running' as the creative idea -- a first for the brand in the country. afaqs! explores

If one thought running and whizzing through lanes at top speed was only about Akshay Kumar and Thums Up, one ought to think again. Now, running is also about Reebok.

Reebok, the sports-gear brand has taken up its first colossal advertising effort in India, which involves a big-ticket television commercial after quite a long time. It explores running as a sport, which, as an advertising proposition, hasn't been exploited much by other players in the country.

This is not the first commercial for the brand in India. In 2007, the brand released a commercial during the World Cup, titled 'Playing for India'. In the recent past, however, Reebok has been off television and has stuck primarily to outdoor and print for its communication.

& #BANNER1 & #The creative jog

The film, which stars Reebok brand ambassadors - Bipasha Basu and MS Dhoni, opens on Dhoni asking Basu out for a date. She agrees, only on the condition that he beats her in a race the next morning.

Cut shot to dawn, and the twosome getting ready for the race. They set out - Basu distracts men on the way, only to in order to create hurdles for the young cricketer. When he reaches the finish line, she's waiting for him there, but she gives him the option to try again.

The film closes on both setting out for a second run, while the road is painted with the Reebok logo and the tagline, 'Your Move'.

The creative has been put in place by McCann Erickson, Delhi; and the team was led by Ashish Chakravarty, creative head of the Delhi branch. The film (which was shot about three months ago) has been shot over two days in the busy lanes of Hong Kong. It has been directed by Mintoo Singh of Mumbai-based Classic Films.

On selecting running as a creative premise, Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman, McCann Erickson India, and regional executive creative director, Asia Pacific, McCann Erickson, says, "Running is natural to sports footwear. The film is simply about dramatising and enjoying running."

He explains that the purpose was to bring about an interplay between the two celebrities.


Running, as an advertising idea, has been, as most ad professionals would say, 'done to death' in the West; sports-gear brands conjured it up almost 20 years back. And so agrees Shamim Sajid, director, marketing and products, Reebok India. "Talking about global campaigns, with 5,000 hits running on websites such as YouTube, one realises that there is nothing in running that is left unexplored!"

But that's about the West, and definitely not for the Indian terrain, he justifies.

However, while the sport of running may be generic as an idea, one cannot ignore the uncanny resemblance of the Reebok ad to a global Nike creative from some years ago. But Sajid argues about the parentage of the idea: "There was a Reebok ad on the same lines way before the Nike one," he claims.

Joshi adds that the Nike film is different as it is more about competition; while this piece of communication for Reebok is simply about fun. "The only similar factors are: first, a girl and a boy being cast together and second, running."

Clearly, Sajid of Reebok India is prepared for questions on duplication of the creative thought. "The issue of similar ideas already been used, came up in our internal meetings as well. But we stuck to our plan -- it is more about being true to our proposition rather than anything else," he reasons.

Though running as a sport gained ground in the West a long time ago, in India, people have just begun to take it seriously. The growing popularity of marathons in the metros, post 2000, is evidence of this.

As far as Reebok goes, running was taken up globally two years back, with its campaign -- Run Easy, created by mcgarrybowen, USA, which was also aired in India. "It was an effort to amplify that winning is important, but it's also about enjoying fitness being fun," reveals Sajid.

Further, Reebok isn't simply about running. The brand is already dominant in the area of cricket -- eight of India's national-level cricketers are onboard for the brand.

Moreover, Reebok has also taken to Jukari, a gym workout which combines suspension and cardio training, based on a piece of equipment called the FlySet.

Run for your money?

afaqs! checked out whether this sprint by Reebok was a creative leap, or fell short of line and length by riding on some clichés associated with this category - celebrities, racing, competitiveness and hurtling through lanes with ease.

Bobby Pawar, chief creative officer, Mudra Group, isn't too impressed. "It's an average, forgettable film," he says. "I don't know what the idea is."

He also feels that in sports-gear advertising, grace as an athletic ability needs to be displayed as an aesthetic and a hygiene point. For him, this film doesn't score in that regard at all. "If we look at the manner in which the duo is running, particularly Basu, it is kind of strange," he adds.

For sports brands, including Reebok, Ashish Khazanchi, national creative director, Publicis Ambience is of the view that the idea of brand communication has gone outside of the ambit of mere television advertising. He states the instance of Nike Plus, which is running communities for brand enthusiasts. "What Nike Plus is doing should be a lesson for all," he states. "That brand is not about some slick TV ad, but someone out there thinking what they can do for the sports enthusiasts."

Khazanchi, however, recognises that brands around the globe have done stunning work in the area of running.

He refers to the Tag commercial done for Nike some years ago, which won the agency a Grand Prix - it spoke about Nike runners being different. He strongly feels that the particular commercial touched a chord with runners everywhere.

"It is always about the brand's take on the sport. This one's is particularly appalling," he says. Khazanchi finds the clichés boring, but the Dhoni-Basu pairing interesting -- a sports celeb for the athletic rub-off and a Bollywood one for the glamour. But then, he is of the opinion that the ad doesn't work hard enough beyond this. "It's competent without being compelling," he says.

"They have been under-utilised," says Pawar on the celebrity pair. Nike uses celebrity athletes too. "But the celebrity cannot be the idea. A film needs to be driven by the brand's value, which doesn't come through in this one," he says.

The global fight

Worldwide, all sports-gear brands - Nike, Adidas, Puma and even Reebok -- bank primarily on sports such as basketball, soccer and running. Though running has been around for a bit, it takes a backseat to the more popular basketball and soccer in terms of an advertising idea, due to the craze of consumers towards these sports.

Each of the brands seem to have lampooned each other at some point or the other through their advertising efforts - some of the cases in point are the Adidas vs. Nike mockery story, as well as that of Reebok dumping Nike.

According to Khazanchi, Reebok needs fresh thinking for it to be seen as a serious running brand. "Advertising and in-shop posters alone do not a great sports brand make," he declares.

Nike has been at it, in terms of redefining itself for the changing consumer, agrees Pawar. "Talking about the relationship between man and sport, they have been emotionally relevant for the past 20 odd years."

All said and done, Reebok is on the move. And it will be interesting to note how many consumers follow.

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