Building a 2-billion-strong fan army for Olympians the MPL way

MPL Global Head of Communications Senjam Raj Sekhar walks us through the viral #FanBannJaaoge campaign crafted to drum up support for India's athletes

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Published: Aug 27, 2021 8:39 AM  | 6 min read

Fans make sports better! They are very well the lifeblood of any game as they not only motivate the players but also make success seem worthwhile and failures worth rising from. It is because of the fans that any sports or sportsperson becomes a bankable phenomenon. And that’s why when MPL decided to get into an extended partnership with the Indian Olympics Association, they decided to create fans for the players who were representing the country in one of the biggest competitions globally. 

That’s how the viral #FanBannJaaoge campaign, which raked in 2 billion eyeballs just from digital platforms, and much more from its 360-degree approach, came into being. 

Sharing more details about the rationale behind the partnership, the campaign, and the response it got, MPL Global Head of Communications Senjam Raj Sekhar told over a video call: “We are a gaming platform and our whole existence is rooted in sports and the love for it. Our platform hosts the e-versions of a number of offline games, so this partnership with IOA came naturally to us. 

"Our objective with the partnership was to support the athletes like many other brands were doing. But we wanted to identify a blank area, a gap that we could fill. That’s where we realised that people in India are quite unaware of the making of an Olympian and their struggles. From there originated the campaign #FanBannJaaoge.” 

The campaign slogan came from the brand’s creative agency partner Leo Burnett, which also worked on the TVC for the first leg of the campaign. 

“We approached the Leo Burnett team with a very simple brief that we want to support the Olympians and want to contribute to the Indian Olympics movement, filling this gap. And the creative team there came up with this slogan and created a beautiful film for us,” Sekhar highlighted.

The campaign was then supported by an extended multi-channel media approach, which makes Sekhar calls it a “boundaryless campaign.” While a lot of the media planning and additional creative work was managed by the in-house team at MPL, the print and TV media plans were curated by the Initiative. 

He elaborates, “The best thing about this campaign is that it truly turned out to be boundaryless. When I say it, I mean that we utilised all possible media channels, right from television, to print, radio & OOH, to obviously digital. And we partnered with a number of influencers and celebrities who really organically supported this idea and the Olympians.” 

MPL partnered with celebrated sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik who unveiled a sand installation that aimed to inspire everyone to become fans of athletes in their pursuit of Olympic glory. The initial sand art on Puri beach featured an engraving of the various Olympic disciplines as well as PM’s rallying cry of #Cheer4India.

Patnaik then went on to create murals as and when our Olympians won a medal or performed well at the games, which came up as an organic extension of the partnership.

Sekhar further shared, “A number of Bollywood celebrities and influencers also joined the fan army and showed their support for our Olympics contingent. Be it Vidya Balan, or Sonu Sood, or Farhan Akhtar, all of them were an integral part of the movement. 

"Again, what made the partnerships more wholesome was their love for the country and the Olympians. They really believed in the cause and the moment, and that’s what made these partnerships so wonderful. 

"We also had fan clubs and teams from other sport disciplines partnering with us like  Kolkata Knight Riders, FC Goa, Gokulam Kerala FC, Ultimate Table Tennis, Real Kashmir FC, Shillong Lajong FC, Delhi Football and Cricket Fauj.”

However, the proudest moment for the team at MPL came when they found their campaign was getting viral on Whatsapp as well. “We call platforms like Whatsapp and Telegram as dark social, where it is very tricky to get any campaign viral. But the fact that a part of our campaign organically reached there and we found the forwards in our own family and peer groups, made us feel proud that something that we are doing is leaving an impact.”

MPL had partnered with social media page Human of Bombay that featured life stories of the Olympians like Saikom Mirabai Chanu, Manpreet Kaur, Lalremsiami Hmar, and Deepika Kumari among others, many of which became popular in mainstream media and as he mentioned, on Whatsapp as well.

Sekhar noted, “We managed to create a dedicated fan army of over 100 million people with this campaign and the impact was such that the official Twitter page of the Olympics also tweeted about us.”

He added, “Another surprising thing that came was fans trending #FanBannGaye and #FanBannChuke organically towards the end of the games. The overwhelming response really made us happy and proud. And then we extended the campaign further by celebrating the athletes who failed to win a medal at the Olympics.”

The association between MPL and IOA will further continue during the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games as well.

Sekhar shared, “We at MPL Sports Foundation want to sustain the momentum and energy that we have managed to generate during the Olympics by encouraging fans to continue supporting our athletes. The next frontier for our decorated Olympic Contingent will be the 2022 Commonwealth Games and we are offering fans an opportunity to catch them in action yet again, this time in person. We are on the hunt for the most ardent supporters of Team India. They will be rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to watch our athletes live at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Birmingham, England for four days.”

He concluded by sharing that this is just the beginning of the brand’s association with Indian sports and they are excited to build on it and partner with other brands as well to support various games in the country.

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