What’s driving Gulf Oil’s long-standing partnership with IPL

IPL is a valuable media property for the brand as it works in a low-involvement category, says Gulf Oil India MD & CEO Ravi Chawla

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Published: Apr 18, 2022 8:22 AM  | 3 min read
Ravi Chawla

Be it a global pandemic or dwindling economic conditions, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is one media property that stays largely immune to the impacts of any catastrophe. The cricketing league has cemented its position as a marketers’ delight, ensuring growing viewership with each season and splendid return on investment. While there have been numerous brands that have associated with the league over the years, one name that has continued its association with IPL since its inception in 2008 is Gulf Oil.

In an interaction with exchange4media, Gulf Oil India MD & CEO Ravi Chawla shared, “IPL is a valuable media property for a brand like ours that works in a low-involvement category. The league gives 45-60 days of high visibility amongst a mammoth viewership, not just within India but internationally. This is followed by six-seven months of visibility for a brand, which really reflects in the sales too.”

But how did this association begin?

Chawla reminisced, “It was in 2007 that we launched India’s first motorcycle engine oil with a drain interval of 10,000 km, and were looking for a high-impact property to associate with for its marketing. Now, Gulf Oil has had a rich legacy of partnering with motorsports but that was still a niche platform. So, in 2008, Sanjay Hinduja (then non-executive chairperson for the brand) suggested that we associate with IPL. It was a new property but had all the elements of inspiration, youth, and passion, that were always a part of the Gulf legacy.”

Gulf Oil, therefore, got into a partnership with Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings). “It gave us an interesting opportunity to leverage both Bollywood and cricket, and gave really good results. Right after the first year of the association, our market share nearly doubled in Punjab. The league also gave us a lot of national recognition as well.”

The association with the Punjab team continued for two years before Chennai Super Kings approached the brand to partner with them in 2010.

Chawla shared, “We figured that CSK and Gulf have a common culture and passion to move forward. Also, we were looking to expand in the southern market where we already were a popular brand. In terms of geographical perspective too, Tamil Nadu is a much larger state than Punjab. So, it was natural for us to partner with the team.”

The association further strengthened when the brand hired then CSK skipper MS Dhoni as its brand ambassador in 2011. “Our association with both CSK and Dhoni fared really well for us. From standing at the sixth or seventh position in the top-of-mind recall, we are not amongst the top three,” Chawla highlighted.

In the past 12 years, the brand has increased its sponsorship investments in the team by four times. The BTL spends have also seen an increase of two-three times, Chawla commented. “We spend a good amount of our marketing budgets on the IPL. So, if we are spending 80-90 crores on advertising, 15-20 crores are directed towards IPL.”

While the brand doesn’t take any additional advertising spots on television for the IPL, they are quite active on digital media and do a lot of fan-engagement activities on days of CSK matches. “Meets & greets, retailer promotions, social media interactions, and target-focused digital activities define our presence during the IPL matches. And the jersey obviously, we have strategically placed our brand logo in a spot where the attention is high.”

Chawla concluded the discussion by sharing that according to a report by Nielsen, Gulf Oil is amongst the top two team sponsors in IPL in terms of ROI.

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