New Delhi: From a wrestling league to bhajan shows on television to talk-shows on FM radio, yoga guru-turned-businessman Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved Ltd is on a sponsoring blitz, supporting almost everything that appeals to young people, has a desi link, or both.
The sponsorship drive is different from Patanjali’s approach last year when it went big on plain advertising. The company still advertises, but the emphasis is on sponsorships.
The strategy is to target young people in urban areas —a segment where Patanjali has not really seen the kind of success it has seen in other segments. And almost subtly, say experts, the emphasis has moved from specific products to brand Patanjali.
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There are two things that set apart Patanjali’s sponsorship focus. One, the company will be associated only with Indian sports and events that build on Indian culture, according to a spokesperson for the company. “We’ll never sponsor cricket. That’s not an Indian sport," this person added. Two, Ramdev himself participates in the events being sponsored in some way.
Patanjali, which had co-presenting rights for the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016, is now sponsoring season two of Pro Wrestling League, besides television serials such as P.O.W.—Bandi Yuddh Ke on Star Plus and Waaris on &TV, and dance show Super Dancer on Sony.
So, the yoga guru has wrestled with Olympic silver medallist Andriy Stadnik, challenged Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh to dance and judged a bhajan reality show. His participation, which ensures higher viewership given his following, could help Patanjali bag sponsorship deals at lower costs, experts say. They add that Patanjali could be spending up to a fourth of its advertising and promotional spends on sponsorships.
That works out to a bit. Patanjali will spend more on advertising and promotions this year than it did last year, said the spokesperson. While media buyers and industry experts estimate that the company spent Rs450 crore last year and will spend Rs600 crore this year, the spokesperson said it is a little less.
Patanjali’s media buying is handled by Vermillion Communication and Combined Advertising which declined comment.
“We can’t give a specific number. But you can say our advertising spend will be just about 10% of what Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) spends a year," said the spokesperson. Last year, HUL spent Rs4,595.18 crore on advertising and promotions, a little over 14% of its net sales of Rs32,482.72 crore.
“Some of the sponsorships must be coming on the back of the advertising investment Patanjali will be doing on these channels. These sponsorships are a well-thought out and clever way of building the image of brand Patanjali," said Ajit Gurnani, managing partner and head of western region, Zenith India, the media buying agency of Publicis Groupe.
Not everyone is convinced Patanjali should be emulating its rivals in terms of advertising. “Patanjali has been built on Baba Ramdev’s personal charisma. It is giving away their uniqueness by advertising aggressively like any other consumer goods company," said M.G. “Ambi" Parameswaran, brand strategist and founder of brand-building.com.
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Patanjali would do well to keep its advertising “different" from that of rivals, an analyst said. Abneesh Roy, an analyst with Edelweiss Securities Ltd, said in a note on 12 January that this differentiation includes pricing and Indianness. A survey conducted by the brokerage showed that “these advertisements create a buzz among the target audience and encourage trials. Around 45% respondents came to know about Patanjali from advertisements, while 51% became aware via word of mouth".