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Paytm First Games recounts Sachin Tendulkar’s journey for its first ad campaign...

... After Google Play Store temporarily suspended Paytm for violation of its gambling policies.

The Indian Premier League’s (IPL) return this month meant for the first time in six to seven months, Indian cricket’s best played on the field and rubbed shoulders with the world’s best T20 format players. It also fueled the ambitions of fantasy gaming brands that had hedged on cricket’s popularity in this nation for growth and profits.

As per a 2019 KPMG report on the evolving landscape of sports gaming in India: The online gaming market in India has seen tremendous growth of late, driven, in part, by the surge in digital usage. The revenues have nearly doubled over a period of four years, reaching Rs 43.8 billion in FY18 and are expected to grow further at a CAGR of 22.1 per cent from FY18-23, expected to reach Rs 118.8 billion.

On 15 September 2020, Paytm, a financial services app, announced its foray into India’s burgeoning fantasy gaming sector with its subsidiary Paytm First Games (PFG) and as the brand ambassador, it has roped cricket legend, Sachin Tendulkar.

For its debut campaign, PFG chose the theme of the power of choice. In a 75-second ad film called ‘Make the Right Choice’, we see a young boy, get slapped by his coach (who does that?) when he reveals that he skipped practice to cheer for the senior team. The furious coach then asks him, "Life mein khelna hai ya cheer karna hai?”

The shocked boy ponders, through the night, if he should train under a new coach. But, he decides to return to the same coach and answers him, “…life mein khelna hai…”

We then see the coach teach the trademark high-elbow straight drive to the boy and it is then followed by the scene of Sachin playing the same shot in an ODI in real footage. This real-life event is depicted as a photograph with Sachin standing next to it. Reminiscing the entire episode, he says, “It’s all about the choices you make”.

Sudhanshu Gupta, COO - Paytm First Games said, "Sachin is a true legend and an inspiration for millions across our country. With this brand film, we have shared one of the life-changing moments of Sachin's life wherein he was faced with a difficult choice. We are happy to see that our entire campaign has struck a chord with everyone.

It is our humble endeavour to inspire people to make the right choices in life irrespective of how difficult they might seem. The theme fits well with our fantasy sports game as well which requires users to have in-depth know-how and research of the game and players and make strategic choices while making their team."

But, last week things took an unexpected turn on Friday (18 September 2020) when Google Play Store pulled the Paytm app and the PFG app. While Google didn’t present a specific reason for the move, its blog post, “Understanding our Play gambling policies in India” seemed to indicate the reason.

A few hours later, the apps were restored to the Play Store and in a blog post on the same day, Paytm said, “We recently launched the ‘Paytm Cricket League’... allows users to get player stickers after each transaction, collect them and receive Paytm Cashback... Today afternoon, we received communication from Google that they are suspending our app because they believe this to be a violation of their Play Store policies on gambling.

While it is clear that all activities on Paytm are completely lawful, we have temporarily removed the cashback component in an effort to meet the Play Store policy requirements.”

On 20 September, the brand made a new blog post titled ‘The story behind Paytm App’s de-listing from Google Play Store’. The financial services company spoke about an email from Google Play Support that that explained why Paytm was delisted and it was because the app contained content that didn't comply with the gambling policy.

As for PFG, the company said it had received communication from the Google Play Support team three times “with some concerns on a separate matter of Paytm First Games’ promotion through the Paytm app.” Paytm further revealed that it disagreed “with the allegation that we are breaching the policy (and we disagree with the policy itself too), we immediately complied with the diktat that barred us from promoting our gaming subsidiary.”

The payment services company asserted, “We wish to make it clear that driving traffic or promoting fantasy sports is not gambling!”