For Idea Cellular, cricket may well be a 'thumb' rule

By Devina Joshi , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 19, 2010
Latest in its list of initiatives to capitalise on cricket is 'Oongli Cricket': a contest which leverages the game to get the nation to twiddle its thumbs on mobile phones and play along

It's no secret that cricket in India is wooed with fervour by scores of brands, and Idea Cellular is no exception. Idea's tryst with cricket dates back to around four years ago, with the launch of Idea Cup (the India-Sri Lanka cricket series, which now also includes Bangladesh). Next, with the Indian Premier League (IPL), Idea not only became the founding sponsor for a team - Mumbai Indians - but also, last year the brand launched an elaborate initiative to get its subscribers and cricket fans to speak and interact with the Mumbai Indians players.

In a bid to further cement its relationship with cricket, the telecom brand is now out with an initiative called 'Idea Oongli Cricket' (which is currently in association with the IPL matches), which aims at creating a long-lasting association between mobile phones and the mad frenzy for the game in the country.

"Viewers tend to sit and watch a cricket match passively," says Pradeep Shrivastava, chief marketing officer, Idea Cellular. "So when we were looking at a brand engagement concept in the field of cricket, it naturally occurred to us, why not allow a mechanism which lets viewers participate in the game in their own way?"

Oongli Cricket brings cricket at the fingertips for Indians, and is open to users of mobile phones across all telecom networks. As per the initiative, during IPL matches, viewers shall be asked a question based on the happenings of the ongoing match of a particular day. These questions range from how many times will bowlers make an 'appeal' for a wicket during that match, to how many times will the batsmen change their bats during the match, or how many times shall cheerleaders 'dance' during the match. Viewers re required to 'exercise their fingers' (hence the term 'Oongli Cricket') to SMS the correct answer after the question is asked (while the match is still on).

A day later, after an audit is done, the correct answer shall be ascertained and delivered to participants via SMS. All Idea customers who send in the correct answer will get Idea VAS (value added services) packs such as cricket alerts, job alerts, news alerts etc, for three days, free of cost. 'Idea Oongli Cricket' can be played by all mobile phone users by texting their answer to '9594939291', a number that is toll-free for Idea subscribers (while standard messaging rates apply for other mobile subscribers). The aim here is not so much revenue earned by way of getting in the answers (as can be ascertained with the toll-free number concept), but to give 'gratification' to mobile users who are also fans of cricket, and create brand engagement in the process.

As can be gauged from the 'fun' nature of the questions, the initiative does not require detailed technical knowledge of the game. A total of 17 value added services have been identified to be offered as the prize. There shall be roughly one question per match.

The advertising campaign for Idea Oongli Cricket, created by Lowe Lintas India, unleashed on television before the IPL matches commenced, starting with a teaser phase comprising three commercials that had exaggerated situations where people refuse to partake in activities that may require them to engage their hands in activities apart from Oongli Cricket - for instance, one ad film had a man refusing to (in what is popularly accepted as a Bollywood cliché) cut open his thumb to fill his lover's 'maang' symbolically as a sign of marriage as he wishes to use his thumbs for Oongli Cricket SMSes instead.

This was followed by another three capsule commercials that showed fingers and thumbs 'exercising' (much like human beings do in gyms) in order to stay 'in shape' for Oongli Cricket.

The third phase was the revealer one, which is currently on air during IPL matches and has Idea's brand endorser Abhishek Bachchan cast as a 'cricket commissioner' of sorts, with two sidekicks - a girl and a peon. Bachchan, in each capsule 20-seconder ad, asks a question pertaining to the match, while his sidekicks deliver a comical demonstration of the question being asked. Some ads shall also feature other celebrities in the cricketing space.

A total of 50 commercials have been prepared for the IPL season alone, out of which around 27 ads shall feature unique questions. Says Ashwin Varkey, creative director, Lowe Lintas India, "We wanted a means to get the whole country to play the game of cricket, with Idea as an enabler. We chanced upon the word 'Oongli' as it not only represents what you use to SMS/partake in this game, but the word is also a cheeky way of saying 'play around' in Hindi."

Varkey adds that the attempt is to make Oongli Cricket almost like a tournament in itself, beyond IPL. "There are two ways we are using Oongli Cricket - as a game, which is the current form one sees it in, and as a long term brand idea, which is what we shall unleash in the future," Varkey tells afaqs!.

Based on the response Oongli Cricket gets on IPL, there is also a possibility of extending this property to the ICC World Cup coming up, as well as other cricket properties.

The campaign makes use of outdoor, radio, press and digital means to reach out to consumers. A website,, has been formed to allow visitors to view special viral videos on the initiative, read about the various questions and answers that have appeared as a part of the campaign, win tickets to matches, and join the Idea Oongli Cricket Club.

© 2010 afaqs!