Why an acu-masseur, a bat maker, a physiotherapist and a statistician star in TVS Motors' digital film

By Ashwini Gangal and Suraj Ramnath , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital
Published : May 12, 2016
The two-wheeler brand salutes the 'behind-the-scenes' faces of the cricketing world.

In its new digital film, two-wheeler brand TVS Motors salutes four behind-the-scenes faces of the cricketing world - Ram Bhandari, a cricket bat-maker, Mobin Shaikh, cricket coach (of Pranav Dhanawade), Ramesh Mane, acu-masseur who worked with the Indian Cricket Team between 2005 and 2015 and Prakash Dahatonde, a statistician who records the achievements of young Indian cricketers and supplies the information to Wisden, a well-known reference book on cricket.

The campaign is titled 'A salute to the stars behind the stars'. The variants being promoted are TVS StaR City+ and TVS Sport.

The backdrop of this film is the ongoing Indian Premier League. Subsequent films in this series will be based on other sports.

The idea, Arun Siddharth, marketing head, motorcycles, TVS Motors, tells afaqs!, is to bring to the fore the real people who work behind the scenes to make the game of cricket glorious.

Arun Siddharth

Ketan Deshpande

He explains, "We chose to narrate the excellence and work ethics of these craftsmen of cricket, who stand behind the stars. We approached them and persuaded them to appear in the film. Most of them agreed to be part of it as they understood the intent. They were initially shy about facing the camera, but opened up after a few takes and re-takes in the pre-production stage."

The link between the two-wheeler and these protagonists is not highlighted in the film. Why so? Siddharth fields, "This is not a typical brand film to increase sales. It is a film that extols the virtues of our brands. We want StaR City+ and Sport to be partners in the progress of our middle-class Indian consumers, who are deeply passionate about their work..."

About the professionals featured in the film, Ketan Deshpande, creative director, McCann Bangalore, tells afaqs!, "They knew one another... These are people who do not co-ordinate on social media, but have grown up together."

Shooting with them was an interesting experience, he says. "When one would finish his part, he would go and chat with the others, because they all knew each other. In fact, we got in touch with one of them and he put us onto the others. Within a couple of weeks we managed to get in touch with all. One day we just called all of them, selected a place in Mumbai and shot the film," shares Deshpande.

The most challenging part, he says, was to come up with a new take on cricket, because "in India, every second person is a 'cricket encyclopaedia' - what do we not know about Virat Kohli or M S Dhoni?"

Mixed Reviews

Brands that have felicitated unsung heroes through their ads in the past include Union Bank of India, Google, CenturyPly, and Red FM, among others. How well has TVS motors handled this concept?

About the context of the film, Saurabh Kanwar, founder and president, Flarepath, a digital agency, says, "India is always ready to hear inspirational stories of everyday heroes, because our only other inspiration is that which comes from stars who lead unachievable lives." Adding about the film itself, Kanwar says, "The most critical thing for branded content is for the stories to reflect the brand's business needs. Else, they're just human interest features."

Stories like these ought to be intimate, insists Kanwar, adding, "High production value and moody cinematic treatment usually reduce the inspiration quotient in the story."

Saurabh Kanwar

Vipin Dhyani

He, nevertheless, appreciates the fact that TVS Motors chose to narrate the stories in the first person. "That's a tougher, but more effective, storytelling technique," he appraises.

Keeping both mass reach and 'shareability' in mind, does this kind of content work better as a TVC or digital film?

Answers Kanwar, "The look is very ad film-like but the content is definitely digital," recommending a follow-up digital campaign that goes into the details of each of these heroes' stories and a simultaneously executed activation campaign as well.

Like what, we wonder? "The role of TVS could be reinforced, by supporting these heroes in meaningful ways. Say, a portion of the profit from each TVS Sport could go towards the cause," he offers.

Vipin Dhyani, founder and chief creative director, Thoughtshop Advertising & Film Productions, an ad film production firm, says, "This idea is applicable to any stream - cinema, railways, roadways, publications, airports, etc. Everywhere, there are thousands of people making our lives easier and more comfortable. The 'connect' and 'watchability' are lacking...the backbone is missing."

He cites the Red & White Bravery Awards campaign as an example of creative work that highlights unsung heroes well.

He adds about the execution of TVS' film, "Repetitive shots give a sense that the editor just tried to fill space with limited shots in hand."

Should the brand have shown these heroes riding the motorcycle to go about their work? "That might have looked forced... unless TVS is the official sponsor for BCCI's ground staff," Dhyani answers.

Dinesh Swamy

Dinesh Swamy, senior creative director, Razorfish India, a digital agency from the Publicis.Sapient stable, says, "Celebrating unsung heroes is an old technique. It has its own beauty. In this case, while the idea touches the heart, the 'connect' could have been established in a less obvious manner." He is referring to the way the protagonists stand next to the bikes while narrating their stories and the overt product placement in the final shot.

The film, he feels, is well-edited. "And, the background music grows on you," he says, adding, "Subtle shots of the heroes riding the motorcycles would have been a good value-add."

About the media strategy, Swamy says, "This format would work better on TV, not because of the length of the film, but because digital content must weave the brand into the story more seamlessly. Discovery plays a bigger role than pegging emotions onto the branding."

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