Prachi Srivastava

IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin

The seventh season of the Indian Premier League starts today. Multi Screen Media, the network that will broadcast it, has upped its marketing budget for the property by around 10-15 per cent, as compared to the previous season. Nine sponsors have been roped in. Before the games begin, we pause to check out the marketing effort.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is turning out to be the second most marketed event this year, after, of course, the general election. And it appears as though Multi Screen Media (MSM), the network that will broadcast it, is leaving no stone unturned in promoting its prized property.

IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
IPL 2014: Let The Games Begin
Vaishali Sharma, vice president, marketing, Sony Max, tells afaqs! that the company has upped its marketing budget by around 10-15 per cent, as compared to the previous season, giving us all the more reason to take a look at the marketing plan, across media channels.

The first leg of the marketing campaign, themed 'Come On, Bulava Aya Hai', began on March 14. The two-film campaign (Aatma and Mother-Son) made some people laugh, and others, roll their eyes.

Post that, two more TVCs were rolled out, both an attempt to promote Sony Max and Sony Six, channels from the MSM network, as the official broadcasters of Pepsi IPL. In one of the ads, a Bengali bride, well on her way to the 'mandap', flees when she hears the signature IPL tune blaring in the background. In the other ad, an election-themed one, a politician boycotts his hunger strike to watch the IPL. These ads have been created by Havas Worldwide. Three more TVCs are in the pipeline.

In an attempt to amplify the thought - that when summoned by the IPL, one can't help but run to the nearest TV set - Sony has released a minute long music video. The people in the video are seen pulling up their respective collars (evidently, the signature move this season) and running to watch the IPL. The video features a blink-and-you-miss-it snippet of Bollywood director-choreographer Farah Khan, who was an integral part of Jumping Japang, IPL's campaign from last season.

The Media Mix

On the ATL (above-the-line) front, here's the media plan: IPL spots are running on 95 channels, including those that belong to MSM. The TV campaign (slated to be on air for over four weeks) is running on Hindi GECs, music channels, news channels and a slew of regional channels, including those from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

MSM has tied up with 9XM, a 24/7 Bollywood music channel, as part of its promotional campaign. The channel has created a video featuring its popular (graphically created) mascots Bade-Chhote, in which one asks the other two questions - a) the meaning of 'Lamb dand, gol pand, bhaag daud pratiyogita', and b) the word that best describes the act of raising one's collar and making a dash for a television set on hearing the IPL trumpet call. The first phrase is Hindi for cricket and the answer to the second question is the Hindi word 'Buckram'. The video ends with the duo running into a house to watch an IPL match.

In print, the IPL is being promoted in around 21 publications, across the length and breadth of the country. Publications that are promoting the tournament today include: The Times of India, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Vijay Karnataka, Dainik Saamana, Daily Thanthi, The Hindu, Vijayavani, Deccan Chronicle, Saakshi, Eenadu, Dainik Bhaskar, Divya Bhaskar, Divya Marathi, Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala, Gujarat Samachar, Lokmat, Ajit, Anand Bazaar Patrika and The Telegraph.

Sony has partnered with around 11 radio stations (including Radio Mirchi, Red FM, Big FM and Fever) in 60 cities to promote the IPL. If not through specific innovations, the channels will promote the tournament through their content and other integration programmes.

Sharma of Sony Max says, "We have a special plan for addressing LC1 markets; it includes playing spots on AIR (All India Radio). Besides, we have done some interesting innovations with Radio Mirchi this year; the channel will play 'Turn off the radio', (a deliberate contrast to its usual 'Turn up the radio' jingle) which will urge listeners to watch the IPL."

Sony is also planning some on-ground engagement activities in around 400 LC1 towns; for instance, the team plans to go door to door and ask people the score. If they answer correctly, they stand to win goodies from the channel.

And speaking of on-ground activities, there are many other initiatives that are in store this time, including the 'Bulava Express', a bright yellow, open bus that will tour 13 cities - Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Chennai, Nasik, Indore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Nagpur - between April and May.

The thirteenth city is, of course, Mumbai, where the tour was flagged off recently. The bus travelled across Kandivali (suburbs), Carter Road (Bandra), Worli Sea Face and Marine Drive (both sea facing stretches in South Mumbai). Those on board were/will be quizzed on their knowledge of the tournament and their 'Bulaava Bahana', or excuse for watching the Pepsi IPL. The Mumbai tour ended with a specially created 'Buckram dance'.

Says Max's Sharma about this initiative, "It is the perfect way to get people excited about the tournament. Cricket fans were exuberant about being a part of this activity. The overwhelming response and enthusiasm of the crowd has encouraged us to take the fun and excitement to more locations."

On digital, an IPL 7 app will be launched soon. It will work as a reminder and ensure people don't miss the matches on their must-watch list. Besides, Sony Max and Sony Six will also engage IPL enthusiasts through social media, on a daily basis. For instance, the anchors of Extra Innings, a special tournament-related chat segment, Archana Vijaya, Shibani Dandekar, Samir Kochhar and Gaurav Kapur, will interact with viewers on Twitter. "We are pushing Extra Innings as it's a big property for us. It invites celebrity guests to analyse the match," Sharma avers.

Storyboard Brandcom, an outdoor agency from the Milestone Brandcom Group, has worked on the OOH plan for the IPL. The brand is being promoted in 97 cities in India through 500 sites. The plan includes some interesting innovations, such as the huge collar (Buckram, remember?) mounted on hoardings in Juhu, Mumbai. The hoardings have the words 'Come On Bulava Aya Hai' written, and lit, across them.

Spot On

Pepsi is the title sponsor for the IPL. Additionally, MSM has roped in around nine on-air sponsors for this season. Karbonn Mobile and Vodafone have been finalised as presenting sponsors; Amazon, Havells, Perfetti, Marico, TVS and Cadbury have been signed on as associate sponsors.

This time, the match dates and venues were finalised quite late in the day, partly due to the controversy surrounding the event. Did this delay impact the credibility of the property in any tangible way? Rohit Gupta, president, network sales, licensing and telephony, MSM answers, "There was an initial lapse because things weren't finalised. But after the Supreme Court's announcement, and after and the IPL dates were finalised, things picked up. In just 10-15 days, we have been able to lock nine sponsors with a significant number of advertisers on board as spot buyers."

Around 70 per cent of the channels' ad inventory has already been sold, and the channel is confident about selling the remaining inventory soon. Gupta adds that this time, interestingly enough, FMCG players have shown interest as sponsors. Until last year, brands from this product category showed interest only as spot buyers.

Speaking of which, this time's spot buyers have shelled out around Rs 4,75,000 to Rs 5,00,000, in all, for ad space on the IPL. Overall, the IPL made a total of around Rs 900 crore last season. Reportedly, the property is expected to make more or less the same amount this time. The decline in the number of matches has been compensated by the rise in ad rates.

"There are two things that really worked for us. There are lesser number of afternoon matches this time; that has helped get more advertisers. Moreover, all the teams are new and there is no clear winner. They are all strong teams and there is renewed interest in the property," Gupta shares.

For the record, OMD is the media agency that has worked on the IPL. Lowe Lintas' LinEngage has worked on the rural marketing of the property. The events agency on board is Oxygen.