IBL pads up, spreads net

By Devesh Gupta , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | August 09, 2013
The Indian Badminton League is set to kick off on August 14. McCann Erickson's multi-media campaign aims to increase its relevance among the Indian audience.

It takes off with cricket. A pair of popular female badminton players put on heavy cricketing gear and move, albeit with a badminton racket, towards the court to create sheer shock effect. 'Is this what it takes to get your attention to badminton?', they ask in the promotional film for the Indian Badminton League (IBL), released online and extended to the OOH medium, too.

Jitender Dabas

Dearth of role models, inadequate infrastructure, suboptimal promotion of the sport and Indian kids' endearing obsession with gully cricket -- there are several reasons why badminton is not as popular as it should be in this country. Of course, of late, the bit about role models can be contested with names like Saina Nehwal, Pullela Gopichand and Jwala Gutta.

Touted as a tournament to which the fortunes of the game are tied, the IBL is scheduled to commence on August 14. And, unfair or not, comparisons to the Indian Premier League have already begun. Come to think of it, given the popularity of cricket in India, this may not necessarily be a bad thing!

The 18-day event will see six teams competing with one another for the prize money (USD 1 million). The team players have been picked up in 'auctions' similar to the IPL format. Each team will play five matches and the finals will be played on August 31. The matches will be broadcast on ESPN or Star Sports 2.

McCann Erickson has also created a television commercial, titled 'Net Lagao Pyaar Badao'. The film shows people arguing/fighting in several situations - a married couple, lawyers at work, street protests and warring armies. A shot of both drama and humour sets in when a net is drawn between the opponents and each party is given a racket.

Speaking about the insight, Jitender Dabas, executive vice-president and head of planning, McCann Worldgroup India tells afaqs! that badminton acts as a great social binder, is loved universally and is a sport that everyone has played at some point in their lives. The objective of the film is to rejuvenate people's fondness for the game and get them to re-live that bond by getting together and watching the IBL.

He reasons, "There are many divides in our country -- cutting across ideologies and attitudes. At a family level, physical detachments are leading to emotional disconnections. We contrasted this with the truth about badminton. The game is part of our social fabric. It's about spontaneity, relaxation and fun, families, get-togethers and growing up."

"There's something 'happy' about the sport. It's associated with fond memories of family bonding, be it at picnics or social clubs," adds Dabas, who believes the "codes" of badminton in India are different from those of other "competitive sports" like cricket or football.

Besides TV (sports, GEC, news and regional channels), the media mix includes on-ground, print, OOH (including Meru cab branding) and digital (Facebook and Twitter contests).

As a part of the on-ground efforts, a tournament called 'Shuttle Express' was launched in schools in Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow, Pune, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. Selected participants from the contest will be trained by badminton achievers such as Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa, Parupalli Kashyap, Jwala Gutta and PV Sindhu. The finals of the competition will be held between August 28 and 31.

Another on ground activity called 'Mohalla Badminton' is underway; IBL authorities will interact with people to promote the event.

IBL has also associated with Radio Mirchi and several newspapers for its promotions. Yonex has been signed on as the equipment partner and Vodafone is the title sponsor.

It is noteworthy that the Facebook pages of the teams are yet to gain traction. So far, they have not been able to garner more than 2,500 fans.

Match point?

Raghu Bhat

Brijesh Jacob

Whether the IBL will garner eyeballs is something we'll have to wait and watch. Meanwhile, we asked ad folk whether the TVC will garner eyeballs.

According to Raghu Bhat, co-founder, Scarecrow Communications, the ad lacks the "energy" and "push" needed to bring viewers to their television sets. "The idea will not be able to attract new viewers to watch the game. Those who have never played badminton will not associate with the rituals of 'net lagao' and all that happens in localities. And, it completely misses on the energy quotient. Players should have been shown to create excitement," he critiques.

Bhat finds the ad unusual and a bit stretched. He wonders, "If they are using Saina on the OOH platform, why not in the TVC?"

On the other hand, Brijesh Jacob, co-founder, White Canvas/22 feet, feels the TVC is "unusual, refreshing, interesting and a good watch". In his view, not using players was a good idea. "How many badminton players does the 'junta' know, apart from Saina Nehwal?" he questions, going on to add that he particularly liked the "bizzareness" of putting up the net in the middle of day to day activities.

Interestingly, neither Jacob nor Bhat were able to spot the relevance of the line 'Pyaar Badhao Dil Jeeto'. "How is it related to the league ad?" they question in unison.

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