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Did Star miss 'mauka' on IPL marketing?

Though Star India has excelled in selling IPL to advertisers at a premium, marketing of the event hasn't been as strong as it ought to be. As compared to campaigns run by Sony in previous years, Star hasn't been able to capture the imagination of viewers, experts say

Ask anyone around about the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) tagline, most would still say 'Manoranjan ka baap'.

Though the broadcast of IPL has changed hands from Sony to Star India, very few would be able to recall the marketing campaign run by Star. But the ones made by Sony during all 10 editions are still fresh in the memory of viewers.

Why hasn't Star India, which has much more muscle than Sony, been able to create a mind-catching campaign for IPL11 when in the past it has created very successful campaigns such as Mauka Mauka for cricket properties?

Experts say that even if Star was taking IPL as a serious sports property and not an entertainment event like Sony, the former could have still done much better in terms of marketing.

Launched around mid-March this year, Best vs Best was Star India’s way of promoting IPL and attracting viewers to it. The viewers, who were used to an overdose of entertainment with cricket, could not relate to the Star's style of portraying IPL.

"Viewers were more accustomed to the extravagant campaigns like Come-on Bulava Aaya Hai and India Ka Tyohaar. Right now, merely three matches away from the Finals, how many people actually remember the campaign for IPL 11? One can safely say that the impact that each of Sony’s 10 campaigns made on people’s minds could not be surpassed by Star’s marketing campaign," a media marketing expert told BestMediaInfo.

Though Star India did try to do lot of encouraging and innovative things with IPL11, none of them was communicated with a similar impact through their campaigns.

Hotstar watch and play, Dugout or the most important fact that the property is going to be available only on the sports cluster were among the key steps taken by Star to establish IPL as a pure sports play.

IPL has always had two campaigns, one from broadcaster’s side and the other one from BCCI; both were done by Ogilvy and Mather. The campaigns from BCCI were intended at spiking the ticket sales.

“But on TV, the campaigns were not necessarily intended at attracting more viewers. After the first few years, everyone practically knew what IPL offered. The campaign was more for building an aura around the property and making it larger than life. Considering that this was first year of IPL on Star India, and the fact that Star has much better reach and much more muscle than Sony, I expected a lot,” said a sports broadcast industry observer.

While the sales effort from Star India has got accolades from across the industry, the marketing bit of the network was not as strong as it could have been.

Experts feel that the marketing attempt of Star India should have been a notch above, where Sony left it with Dus Saal Aapke Naam in 2017.

Agnello Dias, Chairman and Co-Founder, Taproot Dentsu, said, “Sony’s campaigns were all focused on the viewers’ viewing experience. They put the spotlight on the spectators and what they feel, while Star India’s campaign is focused more on the game, on cricket. It looks like they wanted to bring the focus back on sport. I can’t say that it was a weak or strong campaign. I rather think they were working on a different brief. I don’t think I saw much of IPL campaigns or media splash.”

Even if the focus was on sports, there have been some phenomenal campaigns built around sports events, focusing on the sports and its various emotions – be it victory, jealousy, tension and anxiety. Be it the one created by Neo Sports in 2009 for the India-Pakistan series (Get Used to Tension), or the one created by Star India for the England tour of India in 2012 (Angrezon Ka Band). Star India has also made some good campaigns, including the famous Mauka Mauka campaign which had many ad films in a series, the first one during ICC Cricket World Cup India Pak in 2015 (Mauka Mauka). In fact, the Mauka Mauka campaign became so popular that Star India extended that to the Pro Kabaddi League in its second season. In 2016, Star came out with another good campaign Score to Settle for the India-England Series (Score To Settle).

Sony Pictures Networks India too has had some great campaigns around sports, be it Hisaab 25 Saal Ka for the India-South Africa series or the more recent one for the upcoming FIFA World Cup

Explaining the nuances of a sports property as a brand, Kiran Khalap, Co-Founder, Chlorophyll added, “We all know the four levers of sports marketing: the star player, the sport itself, the team, all feeding into the fourth, the fan. Having just witnessed live the FA Cup final at the Wembley stadium, I get a sense that fan communities around teams are not yet a reality here in India. In London, even on the way back after the match, fans were singing the team anthems. Maybe that's why Star chose a neutral way forward. And maybe because it does not talk about any of the four levers, it landed somewhere in between.”

While marking the differentiation between Sony and Star’s approach towards marketing of IPL, Khalap said, “The execution of this year’s campaign seems aimed at increasing the viewership base in non-metro India, but as I said, the content may have been too conceptual. I have no data to say whether it met its objectives.”

One of the reasons as suggested by a senior industry observer could have been the fact that Star India didn’t look at IPL’s creative mandate as a very serious affair. “During Sony days, there were special pitches happening for IPL marketing campaigns. Each idea and its execution had to run through the company, right from the CEO to the marketing manager. All inputs and feedbacks were utilised. I don’t think that Star did this. Also, their focus on research is just too much. Since they knew that IPL’s viewership was not going to get much affected due to the campaigns. It was merely a buzz factor for them,” he added.

While the creative concept and execution has been more focused on sports, rather than on entertainment, there are also questions around the media push that the marketing campaigns received.

Vidhu Sagar, National Director, Lintas MediaHub, said, “As far as the messaging and the creative is concerned, this was one of the best IPL ads so far, in my assessment. The insight, the expression, script, casting, execution, everything was perfect. The job of an IPL ad is to create anticipation before the event – the theme line of "when tigers fight, it's a contest to watch" also helped – and it met that objective. Also, since a lot of conversation has already taken place with the urban populace, Star probably tried to reach the hinterland and they have done it phenomenally well.”

Speaking more about a weak media plan, Sagar added, “However, the second part to this story is that the media approach could have been much more, much better and much aggressive. The earlier campaigns used to build up towards IPL and carry on with ads leading up to a crescendo till the finale. But this time around they built it up initially, but then, it all fell flat, as there was no follow-up advertising. That was a little strange, but the only reason could be that they might have been satisfied with anticipation built up and got the spike in viewership.”

In fact, earlier, out of television, the whole city and town was painted in IPL colours. The trophy used to travel and there were mall activations and events. There was a splash across the city, but this time around, it is all dull, IPL-less surroundings.

“One reasoning can be that they assumed that the property is mature enough to work with just the TVCs alone. But even the TVCs, if I must say, could have been more in number. There was just one film that was made. There could have been more films around the same theme, helping take the story forward as the tournament progressed. Yet I feel the theme was very good,” Sagar said.

On yet another note, Dias added, “More than the campaign, there might be a general fatigue on the IPL viewing is what I feel. Because there is no new story on IPL. It is same every year. The broadcaster has even dropped their reach numbers on IPL.”


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