In a conversation with exchange4media, Samar Singh Shekhawat , SVP-Marketing, United Breweries talks about Kingfisher’s objective in associating with IPL and how the cricket extravaganza will consistently evolve in terms of excitement as opposed to declining.
IPL has been tricky this year as 20 matches moved out of the country and teams found it tough to attract sponsorships. How have you planned your investments this year?
Nothing is new that has happened this year. This has been going for the last few years. This has absolutely no connection with our brand association. At the end of the day we sponsor teams which are a part of the single biggest sporting spectacle in this country. IPL for this country is bigger than the World Cup, Olympics, etc. More importantly it comes every year and coincidentally occurs during the peak beer selling season. The value it embodies in terms of cricket, glamour, entertainment, fashion, etc. is remarkable. Everything lies at the core brand proposition of Kingfisher. I read that Google had said that the appeal of the tournament has reduced but I think they are little hasty in making that decision and they need to wait till the end of the tournament and look at a composite of TRPs, gate receipts, people perception, etc.
How have your investments fared?
That can be answered only when the tournament ends. Our new TVC broke when the match between CSK and KKR was held at Ranchi. For the last two weeks our digital programme has been running and our pub activations have started. So how the investments have fared I can tell only when the tournament ends. Then we will be able to decipher what kind of brand association, volume sales we got. Consistently we have been the most recalled brand every year. In any condition we have always been after the title sponsor. At the time DLF was the title sponsor; our recall was higher than DLF. It has been a happy hunting ground for us and even if it becomes half of what it is, it is the biggest sporting spectacle in the country.
What are your strategies on IPL? Are they different from last seasons?
Not really different, but we have added on a team in the form of CSK. This is the first time that Chennai Super Kings have come on board. We shot a film overseas in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi because that is where the players were available. That is the second change that happened. The third is that because they were not available we broke into the tournament 14 days later; otherwise usually we break into the tournament 5 days later. The tournament started on 16th and the teams were not available to us till 13th.Apart from this the intensity of our promotions will only pick up now.
What according to you is a better platform of advertising on IPL: On ground association or on air?
One can’t compare the two. The television association drives brand salience and share of consumer awareness on a much larger scale. It is much more expensive as well as it impacts many people. Ground activations are more intensive and personal and touch a few people. But at the end they are personal. The television commercials give the overall cover; digital gives one a window to participate in the brand excitement. We are heavily investing on digital.
Are you buying ad spots on starsports.com?
Absolutely! Not only ad spots. At the end it is all about creating content, giving away merchandise, match tickets, etc. We do everything on the digital medium actively, close to what we do on ground. There are city vs city competitions, beer-ed up themes, etc. to engage audiences. Everything that gets done in retail and pub on ground gets done on digital medium as well.
Do you think elections have dented the spirit of tournament this year?
Elections obviously become the single biggest news across the country. Everything gets drowned away in front of elections. We are hoping once elections get over on the 12th, and the tournament which is now back in India, the spirit will pick up steadily.
Do you think the demand for deliverables from on ground sponsors this year has surged as compared to last few years?
I am not sure about on-ground specifically, but the overall demand from sponsors has increased. People are also getting smarter and it is also not easy for the teams to find sponsors anymore. Other sports like Formula One, football, basketball, tennis, hockey, etc. are getting popular and therefore sponsors have options. Therefore there might be some sponsors who might feel that there is some jadedness which has come up on cricket. A lot of cricket has also happened just before the IPL.
What will your final objective of associating with IPL this year?
Sports are our single lead platform, especially for Kingfisher beer. In fact worldwide sports are a huge marketing platform for beers. It will continue to be single most dominant marketing intervention and activation for beer companies. Even if IPL declines in value it is far bigger than anything else. The excitement in India is already picking up. It might be possible that it might not be as exciting as last year, because of the election year but going forward next year it would be back to normal.
Do you think there will be some change in on-ground activations as the tournament is back in India now?
What I think will start happening is this intellectual property rights in protecting sponsorships, entitlements, etc. will get stricter like the international formats. The international formats have very clear do’s and don’ts and that is good for everyone. If you are a sponsor you would like your rights to be protected. Therefore accountability in terms of sponsor entitlements should increase.
Do you think the fixing and betting allegations have dented the image of the brand IPL?
The average person is interested in seeing good quality cricket. In the last two-three years the quality of cricket has gone up. Last year we had 11 last ball finishes. That keeps the excitement of the tournament keeps going up. Our fortunes are not linked with who wins the tournament, which is why we sponsor 7 out of 8 teams.
What are your expectations from TV ratings this year?
I would like them to be atleast good as last year if not better. I wouldn’t like the ratings to decline as compared to last year. Expecting them to do better than last year is unrealistic. The reach of the tournament has gone up therefore for a mass brand like us we would rather reach a larger number of people fewer times than the other way round.