New Delhi/Mumbai: Salman Khan and Eid may together spell the biggest Bollywood outing of the year, but Yash Raj Films has gone beyond the star’s loyal fan base for the marketing campaign of his latest movie, Sultan.
“The reason to make a film is very different from the reason to market it. And when you look at it that way, you realize there are lots of different sets of audiences," said Manan Mehta, vice-president, marketing and merchandising, Yash Raj Films, which has produced Sultan.
A blockbusters that goes on to gross ₹ 350 crore at the box office with an average ticket price of ₹ 200 is watched, may be, by only around 10% of the potential audience, Mehta said, outlining a hypothesis. One cannot just presume that the audience for a film includes everyone, he said.
“The tangible core audiences are the fans of the star or the director or the production house. The second layer is made up of those enamoured of the escapism that Bollywood provides with its usual attractions of romance, action and comedy. And the third set comprises those whom the theme or plot or agenda of the film appeals to. For example, Sultan is a love story with the backdrop of sports. So for us, the third layer becomes sports enthusiasts," Mehta said.
YRF has focused its digital and regional marketing on Haryana, Delhi and parts of rural Maharashtra, which have nearly 7,000-8,000 registered and non-registered akhadas (wrestling grounds) with an average registration of 50 pehelwans (wrestlers).
This included engaging with local media in these regions, interest-based websites and newspapers.
“These are audiences you reach out to more from the point of view of the first day. The second day onwards, you lean back on the film and see whether the content is interesting. Of course you have to keep decibels high in terms of previews," Mehta added.
Brand partnerships for the film have also been entered into keeping in mind the vibes of the film.
“We’ve been marketing Sultan as the story of an underdog and if a brand calls itself ‘Sultan sab cheez ka’ then we couldn’t go with them. We’re not projecting him as the Sultan of everything and that is the communication message. We don’t allow our marketing message to be diluted because the stakes are high," Mehta emphasized.
He added that YRF is selective and focused when it comes to brand partnerships.
“As a studio, our strategy has always been to have few but large, seamlessly integrated associations. Usually it’s a handful, everything more than that is just noise," said Ashish Patil, vice-president, Y-Films, brand partnerships & talent management for YRF. “Having said that, Sultan has been unique because the subject naturally lends itself to brand placements. Sporting events have multiple sponsors. In that sense, the associations have come in organically."
So brands such as Astral Pipes and Force Motors are the sponsors for wrestling events in the narrative. Escorts tractors and Paras ghee are the sponsors for the depiction of north Indian culture since much of the story is set there.
“The north is a crucial and growing market for our company and we believe that the film and its rural theme will appeal to the trade community in states such as Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Punjab," said Kairav Engineer, senior business development manager, Astral Pipes. “Beyond that, Salman is our brand ambassador and his character in the film is portrayed as someone with immense inner strength, which ties in well with our brand proposition, ‘Strong Nahin, Astral Strong.’"
The protagonist also uses Relispray, the pain-relieving spray brand from MidasCare Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd, in between wrestling bouts and endorses Flair Pens when he become famous.
When he’s not participating in wrestling competitions, Sultan has a day job as a Videocon DTH operator. The film also has brand placement for CP Plus security cameras besides an out-of-film co-promotion deal with mobile handset maker Micromax and a licensing deal with Timex watches.
“Our association with Sultan reinforces our commitment to bring wholesome family entertainment to every household in India," said Saurabh Dhoot, executive chairman, Videocon d2h. “This will aid our connection with markets in the heartland of India which is a key focus for us."
According to estimates, the movie has pulled in approximately ₹ 5 crore in brand association fees and ₹ 10 crore in terms of media spending. “Revenue from these deals is close to ₹ 15 crore," said Navin Shah, joint managing director at branded entertainment solutions firm EMC Solutions Worldwide Pvt. Ltd.
Industry estimates peg the branding co-promotions market in India at ₹ 200 crore. Indian films typically account for 75% of that amount, and Hollywood 25%. While a majority of the co-promotion deals in India are purely in the form of media barters where the brands associating with the movie spend on buying media time or space in exchange for using icons, clips and images from the film in their brand promotions, all associations with Sultan have been paid for.
All brands associating with the film have a contractual obligation to spend ₹ 2-3 crore on media to promote the brand association, explained Patil, adding that this was over and above the association fee, as the studio did not engage in only media-barter deals.
“For any association with a tent-pole property from the studio, the meter starts ticking at about ₹ 50 lakh and goes up to ₹ 1.5 crore approximately, depending on the type of brand association," said Patil.
While television promotions for the Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma-starrer have just begun, a five-minute docu-ish video titled “The World of Sultan" has already been released online.
“It’s one of the most awaited releases of the year and with Salman Khan, the excitement just adds up," said Sidharth Ghosh, vice-president, Fountainhead MKTG, the marketing division of Dentsu Aegis Network. “It’s a very well-promoted movie and the content is unlike other Salman films. And since the character is very different and has a sports background, the canvas just becomes larger."
The film that hits the screens on Wednesday, 6 July will cash in on a five-day weekend. Considering it is Khan’s only release this year, YRF is expecting the single screens to join the party, as happens only with the three Khans, the others being Aamir and Shah Rukh.
“The feedback has been positive. But considering it’s Salman Khan and the kind of relationship he shares with the audience, it’s very difficult to decipher the signals from the noise from a marketing perspective," Mehta said. “If the film does well, great. If it doesn’t, apart from content creators, marketers too have to introspect."