Jay Morzaria
Guest Article

Mirabai ate pizzas, but some marketing geniuses couldn’t digest it

No points for guessing the pizza brand. Here’s a from-the-horse’s-mouth article on you know what.

On July 24, Mirabai Chanu made history by winning a silver medal in weightlifting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Naturally, all of India was proud of her achievement.

Congratulatory posts started pouring in, from people and brands alike. The Internet was filled with stories about her, and people wanted to know more about this woman, who made India proud at the coveted international sports event.

Incidentally, during that time, a reporter tweeted about her wish to grab a pizza as soon as she returned to India. Apparently, two agencies that serve the said pizza brand (a creative one and a listening one) alerted their marketing team about the same.

The brand had, by this point, approved one tweet crafted by the creative agency, which was more congratulatory in nature. A netizen, who was particularly happy, also offered to pay the bill of a pizza that he wanted the brand to deliver to her, upon her return to India.

In a matter of minutes, the brand came back to the creative agency and asked it to craft yet another tweet, which announced the brand’s intention to give her free pizzas for life. The tweet went viral in no time and the Internet went berserk. Everyone praised the brand’s thoughtful and timely gesture.

Now, as this news caught on, many words were attributed to this otherwise sweet story. Some called it a “genius marketing gimmick”, some called it a “stunt”, and some even called it “guerilla marketing”. A few days ago, I offered another word – instinct.

Why do I think this move by the brand was instinctive, you ask?

Well, it’s simple.

There are two possibilities of what could have happened after the brand got to know of her intentions of having a pizza.

The first possibility is that the marketing team got this idea of giving her free pizzas for life and passed it on to the top management. Anyone who has spent even a year in advertising/marketing would know how many layers of approvals would be required to approve such an idea, and that too on a weekend (July 24 was a Saturday).

Generally, getting approvals from the top management is a slow and arduous process. The analysis-paralysis part of the corporate culture would have deferred such a decision to at least Monday, if not later, to analyse the pros and cons of doing something like this. (“Let’s sleep on it,” they would have said.)

Although, in this case, the response from the brand was quick and was done in real time, which means that even the approvals were quick.

The second possibility would be that this idea came as a command from the top management, and the marketing team asked the creative agency to simply execute it. Even so, the quick and instinctive decision-making speaks volumes about the brand’s leadership.

In fact, I was rather happy to see the brand do something beyond just another congratulatory post. In a country where cricketers are most celebrated, it is also important to celebrate the victories of other sportspersons and do more than just a congratulatory post. Furthermore, the brand even signed her on and entered into a commercial engagement with her.

I see articles about how grander gestures have been made by other brands and government authorities in the past, where athletes have been rewarded with cash prizes and cars. There are also brands that have invested a lot in training these athletes, and I salute all these entities for their magnanimous efforts.

But why compare these amazing gestures to another gesture by a pizza brand? What moral authority do these marketers have to pressurise a brand into doing better? Since when did a light-hearted pizza brand become a role model?

It’s really simple.

The winning athlete wanted a pizza, and the pizza brand gave her just that!

Was it opportunistic? Yes.

Was it cheap publicity? Not at all.

Only recently, a school teacher called me up and told me that one of her kids narrated the entire life story of Mirabai Chanu in class. When asked how he knew so much about her, he replied with just the brand’s name.

If such is the result of the gesture by the brand, then was it really good or bad in the end?

You decide.

Jay Morzaria is group creative manager, Schbang, the agency that crafted a tweet about free pizzas for a leading brand.