New Delhi: Fox Star Studios’ Sonam Kapoor-starrer Neerja, which is two weeks away from release, has tied up with IndiGo airline for brand integration, besides marketing the film on social media such as micro-blogging site Twitter and Facebook. Neerja releases on 19 February and is based on the life of flight attendant Neerja Bhanot who lost her life while saving passengers on a Pam Am flight hijacked in Karachi in 1986. The film features Sonam Kapoor and Shabana Azmi in lead roles and is directed by Ram Madhvani.

IndiGo will screen the film for its team of air hostesses in memory of Neerja Bhanot. The airline will also hold shows for its patrons. Beginning 10 February, each IndiGo aircraft will have an announcement regarding the film, its plot and tribute to the braveheart.

On social media, the film will be promoted on Twitter. In the week of its release, Twitter will unveil a second emoticon where if a user types the name of the film along with a hashtag, a picture of Neerja Bhanot will appear. Earlier, the micro-blogging site had launched an emoticon for Republic Day in association with the film.

A concert in association with Facebook featuring musician Shekhar Ravjiani, who also plays a role in the film, is also on the cards. The event will only be available online.

An ongoing contest is inviting entries on Twitter, IndiGo’s social media page and over email on why people want to watch the film; the best responses will get free tickets to the film in cities like Mumbai and Delhi. A hashtag campaign called fearvsNeerja on Instagram, meanwhile, invites users to share their personal accounts of heroic effort and courage.

For Neerja’s marketing campaign, Fox Star Studio started early. Unlike a regular three-week gig that tries to reach out to the widest audience in the shortest time, Fox started early and released the film trailer along with Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale on 18 December to gain immediate attention and sustain interest for the next few weeks. The Studio claims that thanks to its pre-marketing campaign, Neerja notched up a reach of 47% even before the start of the actual television campaign. The studio, which measures reach, appeal and buzz internally, expects the reach to go up to 70% at the time of the film’s release.

The pre-marketing campaign involved participating in and showcasing the Neerja trailer at various award ceremonies and being seen on high-profile shows like Bigg Boss before the show concluded recently. Lead actor Sonam Kapoor also visited Neerja Bhanot’s school Bombay Scottish for a flag-hoisting ceremony on 26 January.

“I think what we did was invert the campaign," said Shikha Kapur, chief marketing officer, Fox Star Studios. “Typically when a television campaign starts, you’re seen travelling, doing these reality shows, integrating content with programming. We managed to do all that before the start of the campaign. Whenever we had a reach opportunity on say, a GEC (general entertainment channel) platform or a show that’s rating really well, we ensured that we just went there, talked about Neerja and played our 60-second trailer in a small segment, not to have the whole episode dedicated to this person," she said.

Kapur said that the pre-marketing phase was crucial for two reasons. One, to understand whether the movie-going audience was aware of who Neerja Bhanot was. Two, to see how they could reach out to people who didn’t really belong to the time when the incident took place.

“The whole proposition or strategy was to ensure that this character and her story were bigger than the film product," she said. “We started with very low recall, building simply from whatever excerpts were available to us and the research we had done. That clearly told us we would have to take a two-fold strategy. First, get her people’s attention. Second, tell them what she’s done and third was to constantly keep reminding them of what she’s done. So the intention was not to spend big bucks but build awareness."