It was an unusual event. Early Sunday morning, on October 15, 2006, Pepsi’s ‘Blue Billion Express’ train left Delhi’s Safdarjung station to cheer the Indian cricket team as it took on England in the ICC Champions Trophy match in Jaipur. On board were Pepsi brand ambassadors Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra, the Pepsi family and senior honchos from its creative agency JWT. And of course the media in full strength. Pepsi India Chairman Rajeev Bakshi flagged off the train.
The 11-bogey special train was done up in blue and white, with the catchline of Pepsi's current ad campaign -- "Oooooh Aaaaah India, Aaaaah Yaaaaa India!" -- written on it. The platform looked like a set from a Bollywood set with blue and white balloons adorning it, and girls and boys dressed in Pepsi colours dancing to the catchline’s tune. The enthusiasm overrode much of the disorganisation and chaos of the unique event.
Said Punita Lall, Pepsi India’s Executive Director-Marketing, about the unusual initiative, “Cricket is a religion in India and has always witnessed strong emotions from the country’s billion-strong population. We believe that the Pepsi Blue Billion campaign has provided the people a great platform to voice support for the Indian team. I’m sure this effort will go a long way in strengthening Pepsi’s association with cricket.”
Why is it called blue billion? Said Lall, “Blue is the colour of the Indian team, and also that of Pepsi. Billion signifies the cricket fans who number one billion in India.”
Lall elaborated that the Blue Billion campaign has a 360-degree approach. It includes print, TVC, outdoors, Internet, events, etc. There will be a series of commercials featuring the jingle to support and cheer the Indian cricket team. Cricketer Saurav Ganguly and Bollywood’s Badshah Shah Rukh Khan and Shreyas Kalpade have all featured in the Blue Billion commercial.
Said Lall, “We have also launched a cricket dedicated website, www. bluebillion.co.in, created in partnership with Yahoo! The website has been a big hit with close to 2 lakh visitors. We have also brought out a Pepsi music video and CD created in partnership with BMG. There was a consumer promotion done by us with the winners getting a chance to be part the Blue Billion Express.”
A great cricket fan himself, Shah Rukh Khan said, “Indians are the biggest fans of cricket. This campaign is about the fans, their passion. It is not about the cricketers or the stars that endorse Pepsi. England has always had a cricket anthem. Now, with "Oooh-aaah India…”, it is our attempt to provide an anthem to the Indian fan.”
As the Blue Billion Express rode swiftly towards Jaipur, SRK told the media that it was important to encourage our youth to plays sports as it helps build team spirit. He said, “I think games should not be glamorised, but commercialised. There should be enough money in sports, so that we can have professional sportspersons. No parent should be able to question the choice of a child's decision to become a sportsperson.”
Comparing a cricket match to a Bollywood film, SRK said the tension was the same in both. “Before the match is played or before the movie is set for release -- there is this big question mark about the end result.”
A special feature of the train was a cricket museum created inside it, displaying exclusive cricket memorabilia such as the ICC Champion's Trophy and a cricket bat belonging to Sachin Tendulkar. The entire history of Pepsi was also on display.
At the end of the day, Pepsi made a statement, and Team India beat England. Oooh-aaah India!