Benita Chacko

We have cracked the format to make multisport events into tent-pole property: Sony Sports' Neville Bastawalla

The network has brought together a host of personalities for its campaign to promote the Asian Games, which will start on September 23.

What's common between General Anil Chauhan, Anurag Thakur, Amitabh Bachchan and Anju Bobby George? The Chief of Defence Staff, the sports minister, an actor and an athlete? Nothing, except that these individuals, while disparate in their fields, have come together for Sony Sports' campaign, united in their support for the Indian contingent competing in the Asian Games.

Neville Bastawalla, head, marketing and on-air promotions, Sony Sports Network, SPN, says the network's mission was to extend the spotlight to other athletes beyond cricket and galvanise the nation's support for diverse sports. The campaign's message 'Iss Baar Sau Paar, Phir se, Hum Hongey Kamyab’ resonates with this objective.

"That's our battle cry. Even if we don't achieve the 100 medals, it spells out our aspiration," he says.

Sony Sports Network first introduced the slogan "Hum Honge Kamyaab" for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. India not only succeeded in the Olympics but also in the Commonwealth Games, prompting them to adopt 'Phirse hum honge kamyaab' this time. Finding it a bit incomplete, the team decided to encourage the athletes to surpass 100 medals at the upcoming Asian Games, considering the previous 69-medal achievement at the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018. 

"'Hum honge kamyaab' has become an established IP, and we want to build on it. The slogan goes back years with Indian tradition and culture and we want to keep it alive in a modern avatar."

Sony Sports Network has become the go-to destination for multisport events. It broadcasted the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and now the Asian Games. 

Bastawalla says the network has cracked the format to make these multisport events into a tent pole property. 

"In the past, such events were often dismissed as filler content, except when India was involved. The turning point was the Olympics as its ratings doubled. And we followed with similar success in the Commonwealth. We have transformed the approach to marketing multisport events, making them must-watch experiences," he says. 

The network aims to change the perception in Indian's minds that we are not a sporting nation. 

"When the athletes returned from the Tokyo Olympics, they expressed to the media that for the first time they felt the country was actually backing them. This sentiment truly motivated us, and we pledged to replicate this magic for the Asian Games as well," he adds.

In over 20 ad films, the network has brought together a host of celebrities from different walks of life to cheer for the Indian athletes. The campaign features Lt Gen Anil Chauhan (Chief of Defence Staff) along with Chiefs of tri-services General Manoj Pandey, Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar and Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari. Prominent sports persons like Raja Randhir Singh, PV Sindhu, Mirabai Chanu, Zaheer Khan and Anju Bobby George have also joined hands. Bollywood celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini, Sunny Deol, Madhuri Dixit, Aamir Khan, Aditya Roy Kapoor, John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan have also lent their support. 

Apart from prominent personalities like Sudha Murty and Kapil Sharma, sports journalists from across the country have also formed a part of the campaign. 

"These are the people our youth look up to. We wanted to get the real heroes of the nation to come on board and stand with our athletes. These individuals came on board voluntarily, driven by their love for the nation, not for monetary gain," he says. 

The network has dubbed it the 'grandest campaign ever made in the history of Asian Games' and it is not only due to the phenomenal lineup of celebrities. As part of the campaign, one of the films has captured the Air Chief Marshall Vivek Ram Chaudhari on a sortie at the Srinagar Air Base. Meanwhile, another video features Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar in a submarine. 

Shooting these films at locations like the air base and the naval base posed challenges. However, for the team, the primary challenge lay in budget constraints. 

"Unlike cricket in India with lavish budgets, multisport events have limited resources for marketing. The first hurdle is getting genuine national heroes on board voluntarily to support the cause. Executing a grand campaign with minimal funds is the overarching challenge," he says.

Originally scheduled for 2022, the Hangzhou Asian Games was postponed to 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic in China. Sony Sports had begun promotions for the event when it was rescheduled. It restarted its promotions a year ago. Bastawalla says the rescheduling had no impact on the promotions. 

"In fact, it got more mileage. It gave us more time to make it grander," he insists.

After 19 years, the Asian Games will feature a T20 tournament, where Indian men's and women's cricket teams will be making their debut. This is expected to grab more eyeballs in a cricket-loving country. SonyLIV has launched a separate campaign to promote viewership for the cricket tournament. 

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