UpGrad has renewed its association with Shark Tank India, for both television and digital.
Hiatus from Shark Tank India's second season was prompted by evolving brand strategies.
#AageKiSocho campaign targets a broader audience and reshapes cultural career perspectives.
UpGrad's expanded portfolio now includes diverse offerings such as study abroad programs, boot camps, and more.
The first season of Shark Tank India gained immense popularity on social media with the help of memes. “Yeh meri expertise nahi hai”, “Sab doglapan hai”, and “Hum bhi bana lenge” memes were doing the rounds. Among them, there were also memes about UpGrad’s association with the show. At the cost of sponsoring a television-cum-digital show, the brand gained organic social media presence in user-generated content. Despite its popularity, the brand did not associate itself with the show’s second second.
And now, after a brief hiatus, the brand has once again partnered with both the television broadcast and digital streaming of the third season of the business reality show.
Ankit Khirwal, head of marketing, upGrad, says associating with the show worked well for the brand, not only boosting traffic but also translating into increased conversions.
“Our key takeaway is the importance of selecting communication channels closely aligned with our brand context in the education space. Since we are an education brand, we've observed that platforms emphasising infotainment, like Shark Tank, yield better results compared to purely entertainment-led content,” he says.
Khirwal says the brand did not partner with the show’s second season as it was exploring various strategies and experimenting with a digital-only approach, focusing heavily on platforms like YouTube, among others.
As part of its association this year, the brand has launched a campaign #AageKiSocho that will exclusively feature on the show—both on Sony LIV and SET television channel, apart from its presence on upGrad’s social and digital channels. Khirwal says there is a very high overlap of the target audience here.
“Apart from the TV commercials, our strong presence extends to Sony LIV during Shark Tank and other programs until March. Beyond that, our focus is primarily on organic growth, generating user content, and engaging on social media platforms. We have no plans for other networks or out-of-home advertising,” he shares.
The campaign comprises three 30-second ads, each revolving around two characters facing career and life challenges who opt to upskill, leading to a positive transformation in their lives.
With significant expansion and diverse offerings compared to two years ago, the brand is launching a large-scale mass media campaign after a gap of two years. The overarching goals of this campaign are twofold. Firstly, to widen its target audience beyond just working professionals to include college students. Secondly, to drive a shift in the prevailing cultural mindset, emphasising the importance of contemplating future career plans throughout one's entire working career rather than solely at the outset.
“The business aims to transform its communication strategy by emphasising a shift in brand perception and adopting a more holistic approach in higher education. In the past, UpGrad predominantly targeted working professionals, but this campaign extends its reach to college students and individuals interested in studying abroad. UpGrad's evolving identity is reflected in the modified tagline, transitioning to a broader and more forward-thinking expression. Aage ki socho encourages individuals of all ages to contemplate and discuss their future career advancement,” he adds.
Over the past two years, the brand’s portfolio has expanded. Initially, it was only conducting online programs. Now, it also offers study abroad programs, boot camps or short-term technology certifications, college courses, global degree programs, and even doctorates.
“Our study abroad segment has grown substantially, offering hundreds of courses globally. This expansion allows individuals in India to pursue online courses while saving considerably on tuition and living costs abroad. With these businesses now reaching a considerable scale, we find it fitting to communicate these offerings to consumers through mass media channels. This campaign is to show what UpGrad now offers. It has something for everybody today,” he says.
The brand’s TG now includes individuals from 18 to 60 years old. “Before all our mass communication was focused on working professionals (25 years above). Though we used to cater to other segments, those businesses were not as large as it is today,” he says.
In tandem with this evolution, it has also changed its tagline from Fast Forward Your Career to Aage Ki Socho.
“Rather than focusing solely on careers, we aspire to be more than that. We aim to instigate a shift in consumer behaviour, challenging the notion that learning and upskilling end after college. The new tagline is crafted to be inspirational, and motivational, encouraging a mindset of continuous learning and forward-thinking throughout one's career journey,” he adds.
“Beta, aage kya socha hai?” is an oft-asked question to the youth, especially when they are at crucial crossroads in their lives, like 12th Standard or at the end of their Bachelor’s Degree.
However, the question tends to fade away as one embarks on their chosen career path. Khirwal says the brand wants to drive a change in this cultural mindset.
“Contrary to the misconception that once your career begins, future considerations diminish, we believe a career is a continuous journey, demanding perpetual progress and learning. The campaign aims to highlight that questions about the future should not be restricted to 22-year-olds but should persist even at the age of 35, fostering ongoing dialogue about personal and professional growth,” he says.
In the first season, the host Rannvijay would offer UpGrad courses to pitchers once they stepped out of the Tank. This year, the brand is attempting something different. Its alumni are featured on television and they get an opportunity to ask questions to the Sharks.
“Around 10 to 15 individuals whose lives have transformed through upskilling with UpGrad. These stories serve multiple purposes: inspiring India to embrace lifelong upskilling and reinforcing the changing consumer behaviour towards continuous learning. Additionally, we aim to demonstrate that online education is not just a value proposition but an effective avenue with tangible outcomes. Real stories from alumni provide a trustworthy narrative, dispelling doubts about the quality and results of online courses. It will foster confidence in the audience that upskilling leads to tangible benefits,” he shares.