Mumbai: West Indian Chris Gayle, opening batsman for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), flew 18 hours from Miami to Mumbai, drove to a studio to shoot an advertisement for title sponsor Pepsi for five hours, and then headed back to the airport to fly to Kolkata for the opening ceremony of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on 2 April.
Ad filmmaker Prasoon Pandey of the Mumbai-based Corcoise Films Pvt. Ltd recounts this story after shooting the ad with Gayle. “One week to IPL and everyone was going crazy trying to get their ads shot,” he says. “Gayle wasn’t available on the shoot date as he was busy with a Test match (against Zimbabwe). So we shot the commercial without him and then shot him separately a day before the IPL matches kicked off.”
Two days later, in Bangalore, Gayle scored 92 in RCB’s opening match against Mumbai Indians on 4 April, which RCB won by 2 runs.
“He should do this more often I think,” laughs Pandey.
The sixth season of the Twenty20 cricket tournament, sandwiched between a packed international schedule, has put several teams and sponsors in a similar situation, with most still scrambling to get their promotions and advertisements together while the league is already underway. That’s one reason why commercials featuring IPL teams aren’t as common on TV now as they were during earlier editions of the competition.
Although the situation is unusual, everyone is focusing on getting the job done as soon as possible, according to Samar Singh Sheikhawat, senior vice-president, marketing, United Breweries Ltd, whose brand Kingfisher is an official sponsor for six of the nine IPL teams. “We (sponsors) have to think on our feet,” Sheikhawat said. “This year, it is perhaps an unusual situation where all 10 Test-playing nations were playing against each other immediately prior to the IPL.”
In February, Pakistan went to South Africa for a three-Test series in February. In February and March, Australia was in India for four Tests in February-March. In March, England travelled to New Zealand for a three-Test series, Bangladesh visited Sri Lanka for three Tests, and Zimbabwe went to the West Indies for two Tests. Then, there were one-day international and Twenty20 matches as well.
Most known names in IPL, then, came into the league after a busy season of international cricket.
Delhi Daredevils’s Hemant Dua, head of marketing at GMR Sports, says his team is still coming together. “We have been ready for a month,” Dua says, “but we could not do anything because the players were not available”.
The challenge is to build momentum now, and make do in the interregnum.
United Breweries, which runs an advertisement featuring players from all six teams that have an association with the brand, had been using its old commercial while the new one, being shot by Bangalore-based Avakkai Films, gets ready. The Muthoot Group, a sponsor of the Delhi Daredevils for the past four years, has chosen to take another route. It has decided to focus on a corporate social responsibility campaign this year, using the association with IPL to highlight social causes. The group is staying clear of print and television ads and is instead using stock images of players for outdoor and digital campaigns. “Earlier we had the luxury of time where we could get the players to shoot campaigns and address press conferences jointly with us. However, this year, given their busy schedule, we are just requesting them to be present for 15 minutes, for photo opportunities at press meets,” said Avinav Chaubey, AGM (assistant general manager), marketing, Muthoot Group.
The sudden rush of activity has also meant a burst of activity for ad film-makers.
Ashvin Naidu, ad filmmaker for Avakkai Films, who is shooting the new Kingfisher ad, says it’s been “utter madness but lots of fun”. Naidu has been on the move, from (film) set to airport and then to another set in another city, shooting teams across Jaipur, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Pune all in one week. Avakkai set up two production units, to travel to different cities to meet and shoot with the teams, five other production teams of 25-30 people in each city, working simultaneously to pull this one commercial off.
Meanwhile, according to Gerry Gonsalves, the studio manager at After, a Mumbai-based post-production studio, 80% of the studio capacity has been booked for the last two weeks by filmmakers working on IPL ads. “We’re all booked out till the next week,” Gonsalves said. “The unfortunate thing is that everyone wants (these facilities) at the same time.”
Teams can’t ignore requests from sponsors because they are still heavily dependent on revenue from them, an executive of a media-buying firm said on condition of anonymity. Such revenue still accounts for almost half a team’s revenue, this person added. The teams also earn a share of ticket sales and get a proportion from the central IPL pool. Sponsors could pay anything between Rs.4 crore and Rs.18 crore a year to be associated with a team.