Mumbai: It could well be the plot of a Bollywood movie.
A girl dreaming of stardom will be picked out of a line-up of beauty contestants competing for a role in Shah Rukh Khan’s next movie. The winner of the contest will be flown from South Africa to India for a holiday, which will include a visit to a Bollywood film set.
Full-fledged campaign: Outdoor billboards advertising the second season of IPL, which begins on 18 April in South Africa.
It isn’t a movie outline, though. The Miss Bollywood South Africa beauty pageant is one of the many initiatives being conceived by marketeers promoting the second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), which begins in South Africa on 18 April.
While South Africans are said to be passionate about all games, organizers of the Twenty20 (T20) cricket tournament are sparing no effort to ensure they win over fans from sports such as rugby and soccer that are more popular in that country.
The advertising and marketing efforts to promote the cricket tournament in South Africa started early this month, according to a spokesperson for Ireland-Davenport, an advertising agency from Ogilvy South Africa, which has been entrusted with promoting IPL in South Africa.
“We were briefed on 27 March to come up with a compelling and exciting campaign to get stadiums filled, and to create hype and excitement around the games,” said Avril van der Merwe of Ireland-Davenport.
The agency had less than three weeks to deliver the campaign. The Heat is Coming, the first phase of the campaign, features some of the top cricket players in action and has been splashed across print, radio and outdoor billboards, highlighting the key elements —entertainment, Bollywood stars and modern India—to encourage people to go to the games.
While no new television commercials were being shot for the local market, the advertisements for some of the teams were put on air, along with generic ads for IPL that were dubbed in English.
In conjunction with the campaign, the agency also planned a player versus player campaign on radio, street poles, billboards and the press to rouse audience interest in the game.
This communication featured players that are normally on the same team, but will be playing against each other in IPL.
Phase II of the campaign, titled The Heat is On, to be played out across television, radio (English and Afrikaans), press and outdoor media, will launch with a street carnival on 17 April in Cape Town.
The carnival, complete with large, opulent floats and a line-up of Bollywood entertainment, actors such as Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta, among others, as well as cricketers, will be used to drum up excitement around the tournament.
Local and international celebrities, including South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, are likely to attend the event.
In addition, a range of promotional activities were also put in place by South African public relations firm Magna Carta. Considering that radio was a very important media offering for the second season of IPL, because it has even more reach than television, the agency had senior marketing executives employed by IPL— Etienne de Villiers, a South African who formerly ran the ATP tennis tour, and Francois Pienaar, captain of the South African team that won the rugby World Cup in 1995, on every major show.
There was also a significant effort to get radio stations to choose one of the eight teams to support and create a personal attachment between the teams and South African fans. All these efforts, along with the beauty pageant, are efforts to get young South African adults, who don’t normally follow cricket, to attend the tournament, said Trevor Jones, media director of Magna Carta. The T20 format is a great way to introduce new audiences to cricket, he added.
IPL chief executive officer Sundar Raman said that in addition there are multiple on-ground promotions planned such as the “Player Parade” in Cape Town and Bollywood nights besides a large community initiative that will engage South Africans.
There will, of course, be challenges.
According to Indranil Das Blah, vice-president—sports, Globosport India Pvt. Ltd, while IPL will subsidize costs as far as possible, the main issue for the franchisees will be to recover the high costs associated with taking their teams abroad.
“Especially in the face of an economic slowdown, where sponsors are hard to come by and if at all they do, it’s at discounts of up to 30%. Holding the tournament in South Africa has also meant that revenue from other streams such as merchandise and fan clubs will not take off as expected this year,” he said.
Another challenge for the Board of Control for Cricket in India and the teams will be to ensure that the tournament sells in a nation where cricket isn’t the most popular sport and has to compete with soccer and rugby. While there is a large Indian diaspora in South Africa, it will be a challenge to draw crowds to the stadium for all 59 matches, he added.