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Coca-Cola rides on IPL11 to increase penetration of aerated beverages

The beverage giant is trying to expand the market of packaged drinks in India as it sees a huge opportunity to grow and is betting on cricket to make further inroads. While Coca-Cola has been spending on IPL every year since 2008, this year was its biggest media splash with a Rs80-100-crore budget

Global beverage giant Coca-Cola wants Indians to replace their quench for water with a cold drink and it bet big on the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) to achieve this target. India has one of the lowest consumption levels of packaged beverages in the world.

To increase the penetration of packaged beverages in the market, the company relied on India's most popular sports cricket along with various other properties across media platforms.

Aditi Mishra, Chief Strategy Officer, Lodestar UM, who works on the Coca-Cola media business, said, “India as a market doesn’t have as much consumption of aerated beverages as in other countries. It is still a recruitment story in India, where we are trying to bring people to consuming packaged beverages. Unlike other markets like Mexico, where a lot of metrics are similar to India, it has a very high consumption of packaged beverages.”

Considering the chilled beverages segment where Coca-Cola operates in, summer is the peak season for the company, across almost all its brands.

The company has used IPL, one of the most-watched properties on TV, to increase the reach of its products.

Shashi Sinha

Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands, said, “The very successful launch of Share A Coke Live on IPL across all the platforms and the custom-made content across every match made IPL evenings something to look forward to for the viewers. IPL for Coca-Cola is a story of betting big, betting right and creating magical moments on screens across the portfolio of brands.”

During the last season of IPL, the company activated seven of its beverage brands wherein Thums Up, Sprite and Coca-Cola were the biggest, while the others included Limca, Maaza, Rimzim and Smartwater. As the temperatures soar across the country and the weather pushes people to start looking at the beverages more aggressively, Coca-Cola decided to hit the promotion button with all its might.

Multiple studies have indicated that Coca-Cola has a very strong brand recall with almost 98% people around the globe recalling the brand name. Why then such a big splash?

At this time, all the brands in the beverage space, even in the ice-cream and AC categories, advertise, talk to consumers and do new things. Since this is a very high cluttered time with all these categories flocking the market, the company wanted to stand out.

"IPL is one of the biggest platforms, so instead of putting spots in the regular things, we partnered with IPL. In fact, we were among the first few brands to hop on the IPL bus," she added.

As per the data shared by Coca-Cola on IPL, Coca-Cola is the third biggest advertiser after Vivo and Jio.

The impact Coke created through the IPL play

During IPL 2018, Coca-Cola came out as the third biggest advertiser on the tournament, with intent to increase the penetration of various brands and to also push the envelope for the packaged drinks segment overall. While Coca-Cola has been spending on IPL every year since 2008, this year was the biggest media splash by the FMCG giant. Market estimates suggest that the company spent close to Rs 80-100 crore in its marketing campaign during IPL.

IPL was rounded off for the huge media spend because of many reasons, summer being one. Another reason was the scope to do so much more with various language feeds and other media exposure.

“It was a big opportunity since it was the first season of IPL on Star and they decided to customise it for viewers – multiple feeds, languages for respective markets – both on TV and digital. For the first time, Hotstar had multiple feeds and they really promoted it quite well,” added Mishra.

The company also partnered with various teams, including Delhi Daredevils, Mumbai Indians, Kings XI Punjab and Hyderabad Sunrisers on local levels that gave them an opportunity to use the stadiums, leverage the team members and promote the products. There was a portfolio of seven brands with Coca-Cola and they used it strategically since all the brands had different market strengths, unlike other names associated with IPL like Vivo or Jio, which had only one brand to promote.

Smaller brands in the portfolio got the benefit of this mileage as well garnering GRPs for brands like Limca, Smartwater and Rimzim. On-ground tie-up with teams supported through intense fan engagements across social platforms enhanced positive sentiment and 198K brand conversations.

Thums Up was the overall sponsor on the satellite channels, while on Hotstar, Coke released the ‘Share A Coke’ campaign, while Maaza took the sponsorship on Doordarshan. There on, interactions were extended through Thums Up Charged Shots for Thums Up but in markets like Tamil Nadu where the company doesn’t really promote Thums Up, it was replaced by Sprite. Alongside all of this, the global campaign Share A Coke was also activated, which was launched in different global markets with different themes. Based on a unique cultural insight around strength of relationships, innovative bottles and cans celebrating 18 relationships in 12 different languages were launched in market. Dynamic Moments planning on air and online brought this story alive for the entire cricket-viewing audience. For the first time a series of contextual placements on the live match celebrated these relationships. Share A Coke emoticons integrated during the play along and broadcast with pan-India mid rolls and special bumpers across regional languages amplified the message. McCann worked on the creatives of the same.

“We broke up the deliverables and the partnerships into what each brand needs and then each brand was activated alongside. Share A Coke was all about relationships in India and Indians value relationships in a big way. The cans had different ‘relationships’ mentioned on it. We actually worked with Star and Hotstar, who had the live feed. If there was a good shot, it would say ‘What A Great Shot, Boss!’ by placing the ‘Boss’ can. So you could actually associate the relationship contextually on a live feed,” said Mishra.

Sprite’s creatives were done by Ogilvy and the ones for Thums Up were created by Leo Burnett.

For the dynamic moments, a 20-member war room was created, which included people from creative backgrounds, young cricket fans, and people working with multiple languages. These were the people who were creating dynamic creatives on the fly. The creative team had a template and the team was doing it 24x7. Over 16 hours of trending with social media handshakes across billions of impressions enhanced the overall impact of Coca-Cola brands in the market. Targeting different consumers across markets, each brand found a niche to tell its story and get more drinkers into their fold.

Hema Malik, COO, Lodestar UM, said, “Therefore, what came to us as a challenge was converted to an opportunity across the varied platforms that IPL offered. It was heartening to see thousands of advocates and lovers of the brands celebrate the season, making it a blockbuster summer for Coca-Cola brands.”

The company generally spends close to 70-75% of its marketing budgets on television, across brands. Similar ratio was maintained here, suggest market analysts.

Mishra explained the strategy of using lesser known brands, “For smaller brands like Smartwater, which won’t use a lot of television, we used Star Select channels since it is a premium brand. Otherwise, most brands that were on television during IPL were the ones which would anyway be doing television activity. To add to the portfolio presence, we included brands like Rimzim or Limca, which otherwise wouldn’t have got the TV exposure and would not have managed to get to this kind of platform. These were activated in different markets which needed to be amplified for them.”

By end of June, the volumes and effectiveness of data will come out and prove whether it is a bet that’s paid well for Coca-Cola.

She added, “We partnered with the IPL, and now in the hindsight, now we sense that it was the right decision to take.”

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