Anirban Roy Choudhury

What makes IPL special for Swiggy? Director marketing, Umesh Krishna fields

"We use IPL to drive the objective that is most important to us": Swiggy's Umesh Krishna.

Swiggy has always used Indian Premier League (IPL) as a tool to launch innovative marketing initiatives. From launching a new product integrated within the Disney+ Hotstar app for people to order food while watching an IPL match, to telling romantic stories between breaks. But as the company and the category grow, there are different challenges, says Umesh Krishna, director marketing of Swiggy. 

Earlier this year, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had to suspend IPL 2021 mid-way due to the second COVID wave of coronavirus infection in India. The remaining part of the tournament will now be played between September 19 and October 15 in the UAE. Star Sports network will broadcast the matches live, while Disney+ Hotstar will stream them. Most advertisers during the first half of the tournament, have renewed their trust, and Swiggy is one of them.  

Krishna joined Swiggy in 2017. Before that, he was the marketing manager at Ola. In an interview with afaqs!, he explains how the brand approaches IPL and the audience group it goes after on Disney+ Hotstar.

Edited Excerpts:

How do you approach IPL? Is it different from how you promote Swiggy through other vehicles?

There is something very unique about IPL, as a property, or a media vehicle. Take any other programme, it will, at best, air five times a week, or once a week. IPL is unique, especially in the subset of cricket, because it continues for 50-60 days. It gives Swiggy the opportunity to have a continuous conversation with the customer.

It can be top of mind (for customers) and there can be multiple messaging in a single campaign, which is otherwise very difficult. It can be a promotional leg, engagement leg, companies can launch a sub-brand, or a feature. All of that gets enabled by the 60-day window.

Swiggy has been an active advertiser on Disney+ Hotstar during IPL. What is unique about what Disney+ Hotstar offers?

Not all channels will give you the flexibility to be on every day. Hypothetically, if it is a print campaign, we can't obviously run it for 60 days at a stretch. The flexibility is what is unique about Hotstar.

Also, because it is digital, it brings certain measurements at play, which other mediums can't offer. With digital, we can do some amount of custom audience targeting, or 'affinity targeting'. All of it makes marketing on Hotstar more viable.

"There is no absolute requirement to think about what you will do in the next IPL season before the current one concludes."

How do you assess the return on investment (RoI)?

We partner with Hotstar on certain studies that tell us about the effectiveness on that particular medium. We also invest in a lot of third-party studies to get real-time updates, as the studies are done after the tournament is over. This gives us an idea about how the creative is being recalled, the message, how can we improvise... there is always an effort to assess when a campaign around IPL is on.

There is always a question mark on the quality and quantity of data available on digital. Is there scarcity…

What share of data is available, and what is not, has to be read very contextually. Measurement requirements, or validations will be different for different campaign. There is no easy blanket answer to this question.

However, we do implement third-party trackers in our executions. This is to ensure that we get some data back to understand how our campaign has performed. Also, we get periodic reports from Disney+ Hotstar. We find enough information to make an assessment of the effectiveness of the campaign being run on Disney+ Hotstar.

Umesh Krishna
Umesh Krishna

FMCG brands use IPL for scale, auto uses it to unveil new products, what do you look for?

If we look at the last five years, Swiggy was at various stages of adoption, or penetration, as far as technology goes. We initially established the category and targeted the early adopters – reaching out to every single household within the metro. Then, we moved to Tier-II, III cities, and so on. After that, we started talking about reactivations.

So, for every IPL edition, we have had a distinct objective. We understand that it is going to be a big event. It is a case where food, entertainment and cricket go hand in hand. We use IPL to drive the objective that is most important to us at that particular time.

Is the objective something you decide well in advance for smooth execution?

Sometimes, it is clear to us six months before the tournament starts and, at times, we would like to be reactive to how the market is. There is no absolute requirement to think about what you will do in the next IPL season before the current one concludes.

There is a bombardment of ads during breaks between overs and after a wicket falls, how tough is it to have creatives that stand out?

It is challenging, but equally exciting. We look at some of our creative performances objectively and also try to understand the social media world when our ads are live. The anticipation, love and reaction that the consumers generally share... that fuels our excitement and we are more pumped up about start of the remaining part of the IPL season.

What is the audience set that you go after on Disney+ Hotstar? Is it different from other mediums, or are the lines blurring?

If we look at all the published data, we will see a much higher male audience on Disney+ Hotstar, as compared to television. It is probably because co-viewing is less, when it comes to Disney+ Hotstar. We look at multimedia and integrated marketing communication approach, and make sure that we optimise each medium.

Our core is young demographics, who are very key to our business. They are the ones that we target. There is a very similar pattern, when it comes to the age group as far as Swiggy and Disney+ Hotstar go. The fact that there is so much similarity influences our decision, when it comes to any association with Disney+ Hotstar.