‘IPL must be seen as an investment with a broader media strategy’

Anil Viswanathan, Senior Director – Marketing (Chocolates), Insights and Analytics, Mondelez India, talks about the significance of IPL as media property

e4m by Ashee Sharma
Published: Jan 25, 2021 8:53 AM  | 7 min read

Anil Viswanathan, Senior Director – Marketing (Chocolates), Insights and Analytics, Mondelez India, talks about the significance of IPL as media property and how it helped them achieve overall brand and business benefits through the years, and particularly in 2020.


Edited Excerpts 


Mondelez signed on as the official associate sponsor of IPL 2020, what were some of your key targets/objectives at the start of this association?

As a company, we believe we have to be consumer first in everything we do. So we strive to deeply know our consumers and then try to pivot our brand's proposition to the context. We want to create meaningful impact by defining clear roles for our brands in consumers’ lives. For this we need to look out for integrated ways of landing our message and that’s why pivotal properties like IPL became an important part of our campaigns. We have used IPL to launch many new products and campaigns. It has been part of our investments for a long time now. The expected return from it has evolved since then from being about reach and awareness to engagement and now, (meaningful) impact. We have come to believe that impact and base reach combined is the best way of achieving our KPIs of salience, attitude, love, generosity etc.

What did the brand seek to do differently with this association in 2020?

Talking specifically of 2020, the brand in focus was Cadbury Dairy Milk. Our target was to achieve greater salience and engagement for the brand. Over the past three years, Cadbury Dairy Milk has focused on the purpose of building generosity using its ‘kuch achha ho jaaye, kuch meetha ho jaaye’ proposition. In 2019, we encouraged people to ‘share their screen’ with those who were not able to watch IPL because they were out there working for us. Last year, we launched the Thank You Bar’ and ‘Thank You Initiative’ during the pandemic lockdown, sometime in April-May when the IPL was originally slated to happen. The plan was to launch it in IPL, but we decided to go ahead anyway. However the initiative got a much greater platform with the tournament being played during the festive season. As October-November is strategically the most important time of the year for us, this turned out to be a great opportunity. We were also able to advertise Cadbury Celebrations in the 2020 IPL. There was another peculiarity about 2020. We invested significantly in television this year. Because of the lockdown, people were mostly indoors. So, we focused a lot of our investments on television because the numbers told us it made sense.

Can you elaborate on the overall brand and business benefits from your IPL association in terms of brand attributes, key image parameters, impact on market share and overall brand awareness and recall?

2019 worked really well for us in terms of driving digital effectiveness that is measured through impact on sales. We could see a clear positive impact on sales, especially with sales for Cadbury Dairy Milk being higher than the rest. Hence we ensured that the brand remains invested in IPL. While we will know the outcome for 2020 later this year, we are confident that it will be positive too, particularly because of the ‘Thank You’ activation. It will certainly help us in improving the brand imagery metrics around the generosity purpose in terms of association with the brand and behavioral change in consumers.

Given that you have various brands under the Mondelez umbrella could you help us understand how you leveraged your IPL association to gain maximum traction for brands across specific markets?

Typically when we make investments in IPL, it is for a portfolio of brands. This allows us to focus, and we are also able to select specific brands for a specific market. For instance, a large part of our Diwali sales comes from the North and West markets, so we had the Celebrations feed going there, even as Dairy Milk was being advertised in the South markets.

In terms of RoI and consumer response, how did the Thank You Day Brandathon initiatives help the sub-brands and what has been the increased brand metrics post IPL campaign?

We did a content integration with Star Network where a day was branded as Thank You Day. Star went ahead and celebrated it by acknowledging all those who worked behind-the-scenes to make the event possible amidst the second wave scare. The activation with Mumbai Indians further helped in landing the idea of generosity and acknowledgement for all. Through a tie-up with the NGO Nirmana, we were able to provide insurance to domestic workers. For every run scored by the Mumbai Indians, Cadbury Dairy Milk sponsored health insurance for two daily wage earners across the country. What we wanted to do through this initiative is inspire consumers to thank and appreciate those who are making our lives easier.

Can you recount any success story or a positive consumer feedback from any of the marketing initiatives that you undertook during IPL?

Based upon the years of data that we have collected from social media we can say that there has been a lot of positive feedback coming from consumers as well as from the wider ecosystem. In addition to the view through/click through rates, the kind of engagement - particularly in term of positive comments - that we have been able to generate was quite encouraging, which is why we will continue to invest in IPL.

How do you think IPL helps in creating a perception shift or a behavioural shift among key audiences? Has there been a similar shift for your brand?

Yes, definitely. IPL is a great platform for landing new thoughts and creating a proposition change. Unlike Super Bowl where it’s about creating buzz in a day, here the consumer stays engaged with the brand/idea over a period of time, which provides the critical mass for establishing a new message at scale. This would otherwise take around three to four months to happen. Our Thank You campaign is all about leveraging the platform along with its entire ecosystem to create an integrated impact. By the end of it, the thought of ‘a little acknowledgement goes a long way’ will become part of consumers’ nature.

To add to this, the way Swiggy has been able to get people to order food online while watching the tournament with friends and family is another good example of how behavioural change can be brought about using IPL.

IPL has become one of the biggest marketing platforms with multi-language feeds, live stream on OTT, etc. How do you think these benefit marketers and how can this be leveraged?

IPL is more than a media property; it is festival, a ritual of sorts in India. The reach that it offers, in terms of numbers as well as demographics, is unparalleled. Unlike a typical sport that caters to young male TG, IPL reaches out to a wider demographic; it’s about family viewing/family time. It is an important part of consumers’ lives, and brands should definitely leverage this calendar event to reach out to them.

However, this great property comes at a cost. So it must be seen as an investment in the light of a broader media strategy with clear metrics that can be measured. Brands should not treat it as a ‘hobby horse’ or a standalone piece. Given that it is a large investment, it is better to think of IPL as a platform for engaging consumers on an ongoing basis. It’s a 45-day bonanza, and marketers need to create the right kind opportunities for people to stay engaged with their brands in order to make the best use of it. 

What are your expectations from IPL 2021?

As shared earlier, we keep the consumer at the heart of everything we do. It has been a great start to the year with India’s phenomenal victory against Australia. Cricket is on everyone’s mind. With the England tour of India, IPL 14 and T20 World Cup lined up, the euphoria and fan following will only grow. 2021 is going to be the year of cricket, and we will definitely be interested in leveraging these platforms.   

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