Anirban Roy Choudhury

"IPL gave us a boost which accelerated Tata Nexon's performance": Vivek Srivatsa, Marketing Head

Head Marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business, Tata Motors, Srivatsa expects "even better results" this year when it displays its newly launched Tata Harrier on the cricket field.

Last year, Tata Motors signed a three-year-deal (2018-20) with the Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) to promote its passenger vehicle business during the Indian Premier League. A Tata Nexon was displayed in each and every cricket stadium and the cameras focussed on the Compact SUV multiple times.

The Tata Nexon is now in the second position in terms of monthly units sold with a 17.37 per cent market share in the sub-4-metres Compact SUV segment. Maruti Suzuki's Vitara Brezza holds the pole position with 13,172 units and 44.92 per cent market share in January 2019. Nexon, a late entrant to the market, toppled Ford's Ecosport which sold 4510 units in January 2019 compared to 5095 of Tata's variant. Vivek Srivatsa, head marketing, Passenger Vehicle Business, Tata Motors believes IPL played a role in "accelerating" Nexon's performance in the market.

"IPL gave us a boost which accelerated Tata Nexon's performance": Vivek Srivatsa, Marketing Head

Tata Harrier

This year Tata's newly launched passenger vehicle, Harrier, will replace Nexon on the cricket fields and BCCI fan-parks (and on ground activation around IPL in non-hosting cities) all across the country. Harrier, a midsize SUV, starts at around Rs 13 lakh (ex-showroom). The vehicle will compete with Hyundai's Creta which sold 10,314 units in January, Fiat's Jeep Compass and others in the segment. Srivatsa asserts that the SUV is the fastest growing segment and Tata's Harrier will fuel that growth further. He is upbeat about the second year of its IPL association and in an exclusive interview with afaqs!, he says he is expecting "even better results in 2019."

Edited Excerpts

Why did you decide to associate with IPL to promote your passenger vehicle business?

Nexon was launched in September 2017 in the compact SUV segment. At that point, we were the last entrants in the very, very exciting and the fastest growing segment. It was a strong product; however, we were looking at ways to do justice to the product in the market. One of the objectives we were looking at was how can we rapidly enhance awareness across the country. Length, breadth and most importantly the depth of the country in terms of going into the smaller towns, being more relevant in every region and that is when we started thinking about cricket.

What convinced you that IPL is a good platform to associate with for three years?

There are many advantages of IPL and one is it dominates the media landscape for a month and a half. But, what was more important for us is that it's followed across the country in various town classes. Everybody, from smaller towns with a population of five lakh and less, up to the metros follow the tournament. The other thing that happened last year was that Star, as a broadcast partner, decided to go extremely regional. They had a bouquet of channels which catered to every language of the South, Marathi and Bengali apart from Hindi and English. That allowed us to go very deep into each region and that made it an extremely good platform.

How important was it for you to work with BCCI and create the on-ground properties?

We worked in partnership with BCCI and added our own ammunition like the "super striker of the match" wherein each match a player is awarded the super striker award for scoring at the fastest strike rate. There was a seasonal "super-striker of the tournament" award where the player who maintained the highest strike rate throughout the tournament was awarded a Tata Nexon car. The other on-ground activity that we were very excited about was the "fan catch", so any fan who took a one-handed catch, seated in stands, got a one lakh rupees cheque at the end of the match. One lucky fan drove home a Tata Nexon car for free at the end of the tournament for taking a one-handed catch. This worked extremely well for us as IPL, on an average, witnesses around 400-500 sixers and every time the ball went up in the air and out of the ground, the first thing that came to peoples' mind was - can I catch it and hence, it had a direct implication on the brand.

How did you use IPL fan parks which BCCI hosts in the cities not hosting matches?

The Tata Nexon was displayed in every BCCI fan park and that allowed the audience to have a closer look at the car and take test drives if required. When the Nexon was showed on air, you also had a Nexon standing right there, so it was good synergy. Because of the fan parks, we could go deep into each of these towns; many had our dealerships, so it was lead generation as well.

When it comes to results how did it help Tata Nexon, the vehicle displayed on the field?

Nexon was the last entrant into the compact SUV, in terms of launch. Within one year of the launch, we are firmly in the number two position of the segment. That really shows that the product, by itself, is strong; the public trust on Tata Motors has increased and IPL also gave us that boost which accelerated Tata Nexon's performance in the market.

"IPL gave us a boost which accelerated Tata Nexon's performance": Vivek Srivatsa, Marketing Head
This time it is going to be the newly launched Tata Harrier, what are your expectations from the association?

We are looking at even better results. Harrier was launched in January 2019, but right from the media drives, which happened early in December, the excitement and the response from the car buying public has been fantastic. As of today, the excitement around the Harrier is very strong and we believe with IPL, it would go to a completely new level. We expect IPL to have a stronger impact this year, compared to last year.

"IPL gave us a boost which accelerated Tata Nexon's performance": Vivek Srivatsa, Marketing Head
What are your observations about the SUV segment?

The SUV segment has been the fastest growing segment over the last five years; it is a very aspirational segment. Not only in India but across the world you will see people moving from traditional segments like sedans, toward SUVs. It is happening because it offers much more space and the flexibility to drive in many conditions.

Are you targeting sedan owners with your communication to promote the Harrier?

We are targeting every town in the country. Harrier, being a midsize SUV, about 80 per cent of the customers would be replacement buyers who have already owned a car and are now moving to a bigger one. Anyone looking to upgrade is our target.

Is IPL association your biggest marketing investment?

From Tata Motors Passenger Vehicles Business, IPL is clearly the largest marketing initiative.

As a marketer what are the challenges that you face while planning an on-ground activation like this in a marque tournament like IPL?

During IPL, the media space is busy and confusing. It is extremely important to be different, but at the same time, you need to be relevantly different and not just for the sake of it. How can you be entertaining, how can you make your message sticky and at the same time, relevant to cricket? So, the storytelling around IPL has to be very creative and well executed and that is a communication challenge, for sure.