Yash Bhatia

Rexona is not done yet; looking to create brand awareness on roll-on format: Ashwath Swaminathan, HUL

The head of oral care and deodorants, India talks about its ‘The 1%’ campaign, TG, and more.

In an effort to champion the cause of women's football in India, Rexona, a brand under HUL, has rolled out its Breaking Limits: Girls Can series. The initiative challenges the long-standing perception of football as a male-dominated sport in the country and underscores Rexona's commitment to fostering increased female participation in football.

Rexona's involvement in the Breaking Limits: Girls Can series follows its recent role as the official sponsor of the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2023. The campaign, directed by Sandhya Daisy Sundara, revolves around narratives depicting young girls observing boys engaging in football, shedding light on the hurdles to accessing equal opportunities in a society and industry where gender parity remains elusive.

The campaign features Aditi Chauhan, the goalkeeper for the National Indian Women’s Team, and influencers engaged with installations to amplify the message. The film showcases a poignant art installation in Kolkata, India, graphically highlighting the sad reality that less than 1% of girls in India actively participate in football. This visual representation includes a striking display of a hundred white jerseys, with a solitary pink jersey symbolizing the 1%.

Ashwath Swaminathan, head of India oral care and deodorants, HUL, states, "The brand launched the Breaking Limits Program (BLP) in 2021 with the aim of equipping the younger generation with opportunities to break down barriers. This campaign aligns with the global narrative that the brand seeks to promote around sports."

In conjunction with FIFA, Rexona has introduced the Breaking Limits: Girls Can content series in eight other markets, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina, all with the shared mission of making football an inclusive sport for women.

Swaminathan elaborated on the campaign's objective, saying, "Based on the findings of the FIFA Women's Football Report in 2019, women's participation in football in our country remains low. We sought to bring this data point to life, drawing inspiration from the ubiquitous sight of laundry hung in the streets of Kolkata, where the pink shirt represents just 1%. The unveiled art installation takes the protagonists on a journey through their memories, emotions, and triumphs, evoking a profound experience."

The campaign was unveiled after the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and at that point, the football fever was not at its peak. He shares, “We witnessed a historic viewership for this edition of FIFA Women’s World Cup. But we wanted to align our campaign with ongoing efforts to support women’s football development, rather than being a one-off event. We are looking forward to driving positive change beyond just the tournament.”

The TG of this campaign spans from 18-35 years old, encompassing college girls to working women. The brand is looking to amplify the campaign through YouTube, CTV (connected TV), and Influencers. As part of the campaign, the brand initiated the 1% T-shirt installation in Kolkata, drawing the participation of Mandira Bedi and Tridha Chaudhary.

The brand has collaborated with Sania Mirza and Mithali Raj for the advocacy of the digital film.

Brand strategy

Rexona was bought by Unilever in the 1930s, with an aim to expand the brand beyond its Australian roots. Rexona launched across the globe under the brand names Sure, Degree, Shield and Rexena. It was one of the first deodorants to launch in India and was available in roll-on, sticks and aerosols. Currently, In India, Hindustan Unilever holds a good share in the deodorant category, and Axe is one of the top-rated products from them. Swaminathan states, “Rexona is not done yet, while the brand has been present in India for over two decades, the category is still nascent. We’re looking to continue brand awareness on roll-on format.”

Rexona is not done yet; looking to create brand awareness on roll-on format: Ashwath Swaminathan, HUL

According to the brand, India is one of the lowest-penetrated deodorant markets with a growth of just 11% (Q4 MAT’22 – all deodorant formats). Markets like the USA, Latam, South Africa, and China, have more than 80% deodorant penetration. “In India, the urban penetration to use roll-on is just 4%, which provides a huge headroom for us to grow. There’s still much to educate about this segment of our consumers and we’re looking to focus on that.”

Currently, the brand is looking to continue its efforts in fostering brand awareness, especially in the urban Indian population.

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