Moment marketing shouldn't come across as opportunistic endeavour: Rajiv Gopinath

In a conversation with exchange4media, Rajiv Gopinath, CCO, Starcom tells us why Tokyo Olympics is a big opportunity for brands this year

e4m by Sonam Saini
Published: Aug 6, 2021 8:34 AM  | 5 min read

This year, a wide array of brands came out in support of its country’s 119 athletes representing India in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. They launched Olympics-special campaigns to cheer team India. In fact, nine days ahead of the game, the official broadcaster signed over 11 sponsors for the multi-sports event which begun on July 23. 

While it has been a challenging year, Tokyo 2020 could be the right opportunity for brands for myriad reasons, believes Rajiv Gopinath, CCO of Starcom. “The Olympics is a great opportunity for brands as it provides not just a platform to increase visibility and build awareness but also a loyal and highly engaged audience,” he noted.

He also mentioned that Rio 2016 attracted 202 million viewers on TV with 10 million additional on digital in India. The women’s badminton final Sindhu Vs. Marin attracted over 5 million.

“Viewers in India, an unprecedented number for any event outside of international cricket. This year too, our athletes have showcased some commendable performances. Mirabai Chanu won a Silver in weight-lifting, and PV Sindhu bagged a Bronze in Badminton. Indian Women’s hockey team made history by entering the semi-finals for the first time, India men’s hockey team has also entered the semi-finals at the Olympics. The key matches of various sports have a huge audience interest and engagement and brands can turn to reach their audiences in these moments to make a connection with the audiences," he pointed out.

Despite COVID challenges, the official broadcaster- Sony Pictures Sports Network (SPSN) signed Coca-Cola, Amul, Hero Motocorp, JSW, and MPL as co-presenting sponsors, while the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI), RBI, Visa, Lenevo, Byju's, and Herbalife Nutrition are the associate sponsors for the mega event. 

Gopinath observed that the negotiated rates are fine, while the pricing on digital is on par for special events. “Brands can pick spots in sports where India would be keen to see the results.” 

Time bands are a differentiating factor between Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, which made the latter a big draw for Indian brands, he pointed out. "The airing timings of the matches for the Tokyo Olympics is far more friendly for the Indian audiences than that of the Rio Olympics where the time gap was far greater.”

With Star India and Doordarshan as the broadcast partners for the Rio Olympics (2016), top financial services conglomerate, Edelweiss Group, and Reliance Industries’ digital arm Reliance Jio were the principal sponsors of the Indian Olympic Contingent to Rio de Janeiro.

“This was the first time the Indian Olympic team has two principal sponsors. Li-Ning was the apparel sponsor, Herbalife and Tata Salt were the nutrition sponsors. Study by Janak sponsored the players’ formal wear at the opening and closing ceremony, Amul was the dairy sponsor and Amity University was also on the list,” he added. 

According to Gopinath, a few advertisers stood out this Olympics especially the four that came on board for the first time.

Some of the most prominent ones include MPL that launched a campaign urging Indians to become fans of the Indian Olympic Contingent. Another one is Mia by Tanishq- a style partner for Indian athletes, which collaborated with table tennis player Manika Batra, archer Deepika Kumari, and boxer Pooja Rani along with hockey players Navjot Kaur and Rani Rampal. Thums Up also launched a campaign to celebrate athletes who overcame tremendous odds to reach where they are today. Adani was another advertiser that joined the sponsor’s list. 

Additionally, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) too launched series of campaigns under the title ‘Jeet Ka Padak’ (Medal of victory) which includes a music video wishing Team India the best. 

Visa- who has been partnering with Olympics for a long- launched 'A Million Cheers' campaign featuring brand ambassador PV Sindhu and personalities such as footballer Sunil Chhetri, cricketers Jemimah Rodrigues and Mohammed Siraj, shooter Gagan Narang, and Bollywood actress Huma Qureshi – who have participated in “Tap the Shuttle" challenge and encouraged fans to cheer for PV Sindhu.

Gopinath also shared some interesting findings of the game. As per Google Search Trends Data- Hockey and Badminton are coming out as the top sports that India is participating in at the Tokyo Olympics. There's a clear spike on the day Indian players are on-ground, and on the days of the Final rounds of the respective sports. Furthermore, most interest coming from States in the North East and the interest in Women’s hockey has increased significantly as it entered the semi-finals for the first time ever. 

As soon as Mirabai Chanu won India’s first medal- a Silver medal in WeightLifting at the Olympics on July 24 and netizens and brands took to the internet to congratulate her. Domino’s even offered her ‘Free Dominos Pizza for Life’- a move that garnered mixed reactions from netizens. 

Speaking on the freebies offered by brands, Gopinath said, “Olympics is a great opportunity for brands to show support and backing for players and the Indian contingent. It is imperative that the brands spread a positive message, in a way that is in sync with their brand personality so it doesn’t come across as shallow. The brands need to be careful while treading the line so moment marketing doesn’t come across as an opportunist endeavour.”

More and more consumers are moving beyond Linear TV and digital is creating more and more opportunities for brands to engage with the audiences, said Gopinath. Brands are activating digital in a variety of ways. He shared that mobile-first programming, such as Samsung's Galaxy Tokyo 2020 Media Center is helping consolidate highlights and news from the games in one place so fans can periodically check on their devices. 

“Clearly, when a brand offers, value it works," he concluded.

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