Ashwini Gangal

Pepsi plays on rowdy pitch

In its new ad campaign, Pepsi positions the T20 format as a 'battameez' or raucous game in which both the players as well the audiences resort to unruly yet passionate behaviour.

Pepsi plays on rowdy pitch
Pepsi, one of the global sponsors of ICC World Twenty20 2012, has rolled out an ad campaign that pretty much turns the original gentleman's game around on its head.

The TVC that is currently on air aims to celebrate the way T20 cricket fans watch and enjoy the game. The film attempts to capture the nation's unorthodox fanaticism for both, the sport and more importantly, the format - a fast-paced, high-adrenaline and roller-coaster-like template that is reflected in the cricketers' game and on-field behaviour.

The film features actor Ranbir Kapoor and Indian skipper M S Dhoni, along with his team mates Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina. Underscoring the spirit of young Indian T20 players and fans, towards the end of the ad, Kapoor says, "Yeh T20 hai boss, na tameez se khela jaata hai, na tameez se dekha jaata hai!"

Pepsi plays on rowdy pitch
Pepsi plays on rowdy pitch
Homi Battiwalla, senior director, marketing (colas, juices and hydration), PepsiCo India, says, "Last year, our
celebrated everything unorthodox about the way the sport is played; this year, we take forward the same philosophy and extend it to the millions of cricket fans in our country."

Last year's campaign by the brand presented the innovative sporting moves or signature styles of the players. This time, Pepsi has highlighted the nature of the T20 concept.

Surjo Dutt, executive creative director, JWT India, says, "Our latest commercial for Pepsi focuses on the excitement and thrill with which the sport is viewed by its fans in India. The way the Twenty20 format has bent the traditional rules of Indian cricket fans have also bent the rules to watch the sport."

The campaign goes beyond TV. Pepsi will create a unique 'Na Tameez' experience for select consumers during India's matches. The brand will launch a Facebook contest wherein consumers stand to win a chance to watch the matches, seated on specially designed Pepsi dug-outs in the stadium. Besides Facebook, the digital medium is being leveraged aggressively through initiatives on Twitter and the mobile space. As far as the latter goes, the brand has launched a first of its kind branded smartphone application in India as part of this campaign.

Too rowdy for comfort?

The crowds, traffic and people on bus tops in the film remind some ad-folk of the Nike cricket film that was released a few years ago. However, the current film is believed to have far less authenticity, rawness and production value than the Nike ad.

According to Sambit Mohanty, executive creative director, McCann Erickson, this campaign will walk straight back to the pavilion after scoring a duck. "So this is what cricket, the gentleman's game, has deteriorated into -- a 'khel minus tameez'," he sighs.

Pepsi plays on rowdy pitch
Pepsi plays on rowdy pitch
"Admitted, T20 is a crisper and more electric version of cricket but I doubt it should be dismissed so frivolously," adds Mohanty, insisting that the ethos of the brand's 'Change the Game' catch-phrase should have been rooted in a positive space, rather than in what he calls an "uncouth, no-holds barred" version.

"The story is disjointed and not engaging at all. The connect with the brand also seems half-hearted at best," he critiques.

For Manish Bhatt, founder-director, Scarecrow Communications, while the strategy is spot on, the execution could have been better. "The film articulates T20 reality quite well, and does so in the consumers' lingo. The strategy lends itself to sharpening and more renditions," he says, hinting at a series of such ads that are, in all probability, in the pipeline already.

Regarding the execution, he says, "The execution follows a typical blockbuster Bollywood format - a situation where dialogues can be delivered is deliberately created." This 'filmy format' and dialogue-based, cinema-like treatment of the ad dilutes the central thought, according to him.

Further, in Bhatt's opinion, the product introduction in the ad is "convoluted" and disturbs the storyline and narration. Lending a technical perspective, he says, the lighting is flat and the ample scope for better cinematography has not been exploited by the film makers.

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