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Hero Honda: Different Strokes

By Poojya Trivedi , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | February 15, 2010
As the title sponsor of the Hockey World Cup 2010, Hero Honda has roped in celebrities from different walks of life to urge people to watch the game

Hero Honda, the title sponsor for the Men's Hockey World Cup 2010, has released three television commercials featuring Priyanka Chopra, Rajyavardhan Rathore, and Virender Sehwag. The underlying theme in the three ads is: to urge people to come and watch the underrated game.

"The campaign is not about taking hockey to India, but about taking India back to hockey," says Subroto Pradhan, vice-president and director, client services, JWT, who has worked on the Hero Honda Hockey campaign.

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"Hockey is our national game, and we have a cherished history of great achievements and great players. While the pride for the game still lives on, we need to rebuild mass interest in the game," rationalises Anil Dua, senior vice president-marketing and sales, Hero Honda Motors.

Hero Honda's positioning statement -- 'Phir Dil Do Hockey Ko' -- aims to build support for the game, which is losing its charm in the hearts of Indians.

"Our new campaign aims at building excitement around the game. Through initiatives like these, we hope to bring people back to hockey once again, and rekindle the passion for it across the nation," says Dua. With India playing host to Hero Honda FIH World Hockey Cup, it is, perhaps, the right time to do so.

The ads, created by JWT, are based on the insight that performers give their best, when their fans support them. Based on this insight, the team at JWT came up with the idea to urge people to rekindle their love for the game, which has brought them glory in the past. The creative director on the campaign is Surjo Dutt, while Preeta Mathur is the copywriter.

But how does the idea of bringing in celebrities from different walks of life (apart from hockey) work for the game? "Roping in hockey players to support the cause is actually demeaning to them and the sport. Ads where sportspersons are made to promote their own game do not really strike an emotional chord with the target group," opines Jitender Dabas, executive planning director, JWT.

"The people we chose are not just celebrities but national heroes, who've inspired people with their achievements. And people follow their heroes. So, when the heroes pledge their passionate support to a cause, it helps to make the cause bigger and popular."

To mark its association with the company, team Hockey India was also present at the Hero Honda stall, at the recently concluded Auto Expo in New Delhi.

The company is organising several activities to get more people interested in hockey. Apart from the TVCs, print, radio and outdoor advertising are also being utilised. The soon-to-be-aired radio programme, called Hockey Jockey, aims to generate interest among youngsters.

Hero Honda is also sponsoring an inter-school hockey league, Hero Honda Cup Inter-school Hockey Tournament. The tournament for school children has been organised across 19 cities, where 4,000 kids from more than 275 schools will participate. The cities where the tournament has been organised are: Delhi, Lucknow, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Kolkata, Ranchi, Bhubaneshwar, Patna, Jamshedpur, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Indore, Chennai, Cochin, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The company has also created an anthem, which it plans to play in the stadium.

The Steel Authority of India (SAIL) is the presenting partner of World Cup. Other World Hockey partners are ABN Amro, Azerbaijan-based ATA Holdings, BDO International and Samsung. ABN Amro was the title sponsor in 2009, while BDO sponsored the event in 2002.

The 12th edition of the Men's Hockey World Cup, which is spread over two weeks from February 28 to March 13, will be played at New Delhi's Dhyan Chand National Stadium. The event will be held in India after a period of 28 years. The finals of the game will be played on March 13, which incidentally, coincides with the one of the IPL matches.

India's largest motorcycle maker, Hero Honda has sponsored various events in the past. It will also sponsor the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi. The company is also sponsoring the Queen's Baton Relay, which is similar to the Olympic Torch Relay.

Striking Idea?

Within the fraternity, the campaign gets full marks for the cause, but earns mixed remarks for roping in icons from different disciplines.

Ajay Gahlaut, group creative director, Ogilvy India, thinks it is an interesting idea to rope in celebrities that help grab attention; and it is also a nice way to support the national game. He says, "Because a hockey player will obviously support the game, the impact comes when there is a cricketer or a shooter or an actor supporting it. And since it is our national game, the effect comes when icons from their discipline also support it."

However, Vedobroto Roy, creative director, Cheil Communications, has a different take. He says, "I would have rather loved to see the common man celebrating the World Cup in Delhi and what the game means to us, and not some celebrity ordering me to go to a game and on the sly, selling me a bike."

Nevertheless, both agree on the simple, yet effective conveyance of the message in the ads.

"The ad has nothing flashy about it, but it talks to people sincerely and directly about the fact that the brand supports hockey. And I think the simple and straightforward approach is desirable in this case," says Gehlaut.

Roy feels that the concept for the ads is good -- a shot in the arm that Indian hockey and the World Cup committee so badly needs.