Sony Max sells Pro Wrestling League on the back of 'sissy bashing'

By Shweta Mulki , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | December 04, 2015
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In its TVCs for the Khel Fauladi campaign, the channel attacks Nazuk Launde and Chui Mui Ladkiyan.

Multi Screen Media's Sony Max has unveiled its new campaign for the Pro Wrestling League post the recent acquisition of the broadcast rights for five years. The campaign theme for the first season is Khel Fauladi, created by DDB Mudra. With two 40-second-TVCs and two 'shorties', the latter featuring the marquee wrestlers, the focus here is on the raw strength, skill, endurance and technique, as well as the steely resolve, will, and determination required for the sport.

The Chui Mui Ladkiyan and the Nazuk Launde TVCs, urge urban girls and boys to stop being fragile and vain. The films are interspersed with shots of wrestlers at their best.

Khel Fauladi campaign

The team at Sony Max says that it was great to see wrestling, a rustic mass sport, and one of the oldest in the country, being taken to a global platform. It adds that there is a large youth segment which wants to understand and enjoy alternative sports. And, the challenge is to make the sport interesting, and convey its elements in an entertaining manner.

Khel Fauladi campaign

Neeraj Vyas, senior executive vice-president, Sony MAX and Sony MAX2, says, "There's a clear shift that has kind of emerged in maybe the last couple of years, where people are looking very keenly at sports other than cricket. If you look at the prospects of wrestling, there are a number of medals we have won at the Asian, Commonwealth or Olympic Games, and the World Championships. It may not cut across urban audiences so much, but in smaller cities -- from Kolhapur to Ludhiana -- the following is immense. Like kabaddi, this sport too, is very rooted."

Neeraj Vyas

Vaishali Sharma

Sonal Dabral

Vyas further adds, "People like Sushil Kumar and Geeta Phogat are household names. We must simplify the sport for the viewer, explain the technique, and give them an opportunity to witness a sport like this. That's what we see ourselves doing at least in the first year."

Vaishali Sharma, Senior vice-president, marketing and communications, Sony MAX and MAX 2 adds, "While working on the campaign and market strategy, we were clear that we had to be true to the sport and also find a way to appeal to a larger segment that includes not just the purists, but also those who now show a greater interest in wrestling. My favourite phrases here are 'from mitti to the mat' and 'from an akhada to a global platform'. Also, thanks to the medals we've won, it's upfront on people's minds.

Sharma further adds, "With a mainly male 10+ years target audience, we wanted to bring alive that never-before-experience for viewers in terms of tonality and edginess, and also keep in mind where our viewers come from."

Speaking about research, Sharma explains, "People are getting into cross-fit training, hiking -- the whole 'push my limit' mantra was part of the consumer insight on which we have based this campaign."

The brief was to bring alive the strength, endurance and toughness that the sport demands of its players, and secondly appeal to a larger set of viewers, who can raise it from being a raw rustic game and give it a larger than life appeal. "The visuals, both glamourous and rustic, are a balance of the two," adds Sharma.

The marketing campaign will extend to television channels beyond the network, and across genres, and in both English and regional markets, with Hindi speaking markets being the primary focus. In outdoor, this will spread across the six cities where the matches are going to be held, as well as a radio tie-up.

Sonal Dabral, chairman and chief creative officer, DDB Mudra, says, "In order to be true to the sport, we gave it a larger-than-life rallying cry. The US wrestling icon Dan Gable had said that gold medals aren't really made of gold, but of strength, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts. So, we have this phrase 'Khel Fauladi'. Faulad is a great word that captures the idea of will of steel and raw strength well. On one hand, the phrase suggests what kind of sport this is, while alternatively it invites you to play a fauladi sport.

Explaining the idea further, Dabral says, "People today want to be fitter, and get into adventure sports, while, on the other hand, you also have these male skincare and grooming products, and the whole metrosexual focus. We felt we could take a humourous route, where, to glorify the 'strength and resolve', we take a dig at our poor city souls who get tired easily, and are all about vanity, and superficiality. We tread on a lighter side saying 'Don't be weak at heart', and tell people to get going. The wrestling bits within, focus on the aspects of will and courage. It's a tongue-in-cheek approach, and people will have a good laugh and also get the point."

K V Sridhar, chief creative Officer India, SapientNitro, India, says, "I find it a bit insulting. You are talking to sports lovers who would want to watch a sport. So, you can't tell someone that you are a sissy guy or a girly girl and therefore not fit for sport, and look at these heroes".

K V Sridhar

K S Chakravarthy

Even if you are not a sportsperson, you will still want to watch this sport, so there is a certain way you can inspire people. The JSW Steel ad film with Geeta Phogat for example, makes you want to be like that in whatever you do, not just wrestling. And, if you want to have a humourist take, you can have one on amateur wrestlers. If you actually take non-wrestlers and tell them that they are not the wrestling type, well, of course, they are not. So, I think they got it wrong on the 'who we are talking to' aspect, as well as on how to motivate people to actually watch the sport. Another good example would be the Khali commercial, which too is about strength and courage, and shows a man who is gentle and innocent, without being offensive. One can make a light-hearted comment provided you have the right insights, where you don't have to make people feel bad about themselves.

K S Chakravarthy, chief creative officer, Liqvd Asia, thinks differently. He says, "I like the take. Wrestling is, and will remain an earthy, small town sport - and that is where the viewership will come from. So heaping scorn on the softies of the big city is an angle that will resonate -- and make the guy (or girl) feel superior, tough, real. The execution does justice to the idea, as does the over-the-top script and the counterpointed voice over. So, I like it -- they have been realistic about their target, and made a good attempt to speak their language."

The PWL will air from 7-9 pm, from December 10 to 27, on Sony Max, Sony Six, and Sony Pal.

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