Tracking the 10-year journey of IPL, BestMediaInfo.com spoke to key people behind the marketing campaigns of the premier sports event
Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | March 15, 2017
Indian Premier League (IPL) -- a brand that has helped other names ride on it -- has had a journey similar to a roller-coaster ride. Some call it the most successful start-up of the country while others say it is responsible for commercialising cricket. Call it a money-minting business or blame it for bringing the infamous cheer leaders into Indian culture but IPL will remain to the most successful sports league the country has seen.
IPL started off as a cricket league, went on to become an entertaining event, moved ahead a little more and became a wonderful platform for brands to ride on and has today become one of the buzziest brands by itself. IPL’s success can be credited to many reasons -- one of them being the marketing campaigns of the official broadcaster of the tournament, Sony Max (then Set Max).
2008: Manoranjan ka Baap (Theme song: Karmayudh)
The first campaign, which established IPL as an entertainment content without limiting it to the sports genre, was titled ‘Manoranjan ka Baap’. It was a single television commercial that led the campaign with multiplatform layers to it. The 75-second commercial was set in backdrop of the 80s or 90s where a mother and her twin sons named Mano and Ranjan were seen waiting for the father of the children only to be asked -- ‘Kab aayega tumhara baap?’ (When will your father arrive?).
A voiceover then announced the entry of Manoranjan ka Baap (father of entertainment), saying ‘Aa gaya, Manoranjan ka Baap. DLF Indian Premier League. Sirf Max par.’
Neeraj Vyas, Senior EVP and Business Head, Sony Max, Sony Max2, Sony Mix, SET, said, “I think we got it right in the first year itself when we said it is Manoranjan ka Baap. A critical thing to remember is that the host broadcaster was a Hindi movie channel, not a sports channel and that was probably the best thing that happened to IPL. Channels like Max were launched around late 90s and hence enjoyed the advantage of being distributed wonderfully well in the country. That was a huge decision taken at the right time by SPN then. Considering this, whatever we put out, had to blend into the offering that Max was by itself. We have only built from there.”
The campaign is not the only part of the IPL marketing. The broadcaster has consistently brought in a lot of songs and anthems to add music to the whole offering of entertainment. In the first year, the network launched the anthem ‘Karmayudh’, which was more like a montage of animated videos sporting the jerseys of various teams.
As Govind Pandey, CEO, TBWA India, said, “The quality of cricket which was played in IPL was one of the reasons why it grew tremendously. Initially there was doubt if cricket can generate city-specific loyalties and the teams will be able to build franchise, considering that cricket has always been an international and patriotic affair for Indians. It was rightly established in the first season itself, though its anthem of Karmayuddh, when they said that it is not about Dharmayuddh (for playing for your country).”
The first campaign of IPL was conceptualised by TBWA Mumbai.
Rahul Sengupta, then NCD, TBWA India, said, “It was the introductory campaign for IPL and they didn’t want it to be seen as a cricketing event. It was expected to compete with the other entertainment events, to be seen as the No. 1 entertainment destination, Manoranjan being the word for entertainment in India -- Man.. ka baap came about.”
2009: Ek desh, Ek junoon (Theme song)
The second year’s campaign was a clear testimony of what Vyas always says about IPL, “It is a unifier. It brings people together.”
The films made under this campaign were largely a montage of shots where people were doing same things, and all together. The voiceover asked, Kabhi sau crore logon ko ek saath ek hi cheez karte dekha hain? (Ever seen 100 crore people doing the same thing together?). The TVC ends with a final voiceover that says, 'Ek desh, Ek junoon, DLF-IPL sirf Max par'.
Sengupta, the man behind the campaign, recalls how the idea of simultaneous behaviour was built. He explained, “Drawing from the success of first IPL, we realised that never before had any programme or content on TV saw so many people united in front of the TV sets. Every emotion that was felt in one living room was felt across the country. So the myriad emotions of cricket, from a bird’s eye view, turned to everyone reacting to the same thing in the same way across the lengths and breadths of India.”
While building the first and second seasons campaigns, did anyone anticipate the magnitude of IPL? Sengupta remembers how the whole team sat brainstorming and was left in awe. “I remember we were sitting in Set Max office when the first auction was taking place and everyone was kind of mind blown by the attention that it (auction) was getting. In the IPL journey, I think every year, everyone is still getting surprised by how much it has grown. Back then, no one -- cricketers, broadcasters, public, brands -- had imagined how big this will grow.”
Sengupta is currently an ad film maker.
2010: Welcome Home (Theme song)
While it was still initial days for the tournament, controversies have found IPL at young age. After the cheer leaders’ controversy, the next one was banning IPL from taking place in India. In its second season, the tournament was held in South Africa.
Season three welcomed the tournament back to the country with ‘Welcome Home’ campaign and it unrolled a red carpet for the league.
2011: Bharat Bandh (Dhum Dhadaka)
All the upcoming campaigns were more or less helping to build IPL to a brand that it is today. In the fourth season, the tournament was announced with a ‘Bharat Bandh’ phenomenon. Produced by filmmaker, Rajkumar Hirani, the campaign saw huge success. It was a humorous take on how everyone reacts to the IPL.
Vyas explained the core thought behind IPL marketing every year. “We have made sure that we keep it entertaining, more than anything else. For us, IPL has always been an event and that’s the perspective behind marketing. It is a month-long event and we have to ensure that we keep the audience engaged for this long period of time -- look and feel, texture and extra innings of this campaign, everything has a lot of colour, zing and energy. That’s why we do multiple creatives every year, so that it lasts through the length of the tournament and there is an element of freshness. The basic grain remains the same, it is a fusion of cricket and entertainment.”
2012: Aisa mauka aur kahan milega (Theme song)
The fifth season too had major role in building up the brand IPL through the campaign – Aisa Mauka Aur Kahan Milega. This was also created by JWT and directed and filmed by ad film director Rajesh Sathi of Keroscene Films.
Sengupta said, “It was around this season that everyone could gauge the magnitude of the event. It is indeed an established entity of the sports viewing universe.”
According to Vyas, three pillars have helped IPL grow as a brand. Explaining further, he said, “Uniqueness of the format -- nobody had seen the format of cricket where the game starts and end in three hours. Second is the quality of cricket -- there’s wonderful quality of cricket being played where the cricketers rub shoulders and play extremely competitive hard-level game. For an Indian fan, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar playing together for Mumbai Indians is a huge emotional high. IPL is the only format of sports (at least in India) that involves the entire family. No other content is as family heavy as IPL, even in the stadiums you will see similar crowd.”
2013: Sirf Dekhneka Nahi
Sirf Dekhneka Nahi has been termed as one of the milestone campaigns in the IPL journey. The network got Farah Khan on board to devise dance steps for the major events in the cricket match, including sixes, fours and wickets.
Vaishali Sharma, Head of Marketing, Set Max, said, “Jumping Jhapangg campaign took the IPL marketing to another level of entertainment and engagement. While the positioning of IPL has been intact but every year started with a fresh plate. Closely looking at how viewers are evolving, analysing the new insights and applying all of this to our marketing campaign was an exciting thing, though challenging too. It was about giving a larger than life feel and making it relevant.”
2014: Come On Bulava Aya Hai (Anthem)
The marketing budget significantly increased in this year of IPL journey. This was the sixth year of the tournament and the campaign was calling everyone to come to IPL. There was a full musical video created with the anchors of the analysis show Extra Innings and former cricket stars, Ajay Jadeja and Wasim Akram.
Vyas said, “The easiest way of marketing is to put up a montage of the cricketing moments together. But the reason to take a different peg every year is to ensure freshness. Be it India Ka Tyohaar or Happywala India, be it Dus Saal Apke Naam or Come On Bulava Aya Hai, it is ultimately about weaving cricket and entertainment together. It is said differently every year.”
While IPL has a huge element of cricket, which is the major driver of viewership and popularity of the league, what is the role of marketing? Vyas said, “Marketing plays a fairly big role in driving viewership. Unlike other tournaments, we start advertising about a month ahead of the league and we try to keep the flavour so that there is energy and excitement around the campaigns.”
2015: India Ka Tyohaar (Anthem)
In the eighth year of IPL, the broadcaster tried to weave the whole country in a single thread of IPL. It named the tournament as the common festival of the whole country and deemed it as a unifier. As Sharma puts it, “India Ka Tyohaar completely established the magnitude of IPL as the largest event in the country. I think this campaign, along with Manoranjan Ka Baap and Jumping Jhapangg, were the evolution points for the marketing journey of IPL.”
Also, the network took a calculated call of not talking about cricket in its marketing communication. India was just done with the World Cup and there was a certain fatigue among the viewers.
The network also released an anthem that introduced IPL as 'Ismein hai dilon ka pyaar, yeh hai India ka tyohar'. This was the first time when the anthem was localised to be translated into four Indian languages -- Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and Bengali.
2016: Ek India Happywala (Anthem)
In the ninth year, the broadcaster felt that the brand IPL matured to an extent where the new communication can be cricket-free and entertainment-free. The network took an emotional twist in the last year’s proposition with Happywala India and announced to take the promise on the network level with the corporate social responsibility (CSR) extension.
This year, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) also launched a campaign to announce the upcoming tournament.
2017: Dus Saal Aapke Naam (Anthem)
In this year’s campaign, the network has decided to thank the fans for their support through the last decade. Explaining marketing plans for the tourney in this year, Sharma said, “Last year, rural was also measured and 40 per cent viewership came from there. This year we will be trying to tap rural. One of the ways to reach out to rural is through television, which is the biggest reach builder, and we have a lot of our own brands to do that. A lot of rural marketing will be through above-the-line (ATL) media as that is a more cost-effective way and easier too.”
Sharma also said that the network has gone down to the LC1 towns and done a lot of engagement activities with the audiences in the past. “Given the magnitude of audiences that we are targeting this year, we clearly need reach builders. IPL has delivered on its promise. It has given people reasons to have faith in the brand. We have been gunning after newer set of audiences every year, so that needs greater scale and we have been true to ensuring that we spend as much as required.”