MS Dhoni plays a hockey player in new redBus ad campaign

  • The campaign consists of two television spots featuring Mahendra Singh Dhoni as Balbir Singh, captain of a hockey team and film actor Gajraj Rao as Raja Babu, a local politician
  • The campaign shows why online booking provides users with options to opt for best prices and seats, and reschedule trips

New Delhi: Mahendra Singh Dhoni has taken up the role of a hockey player in the new redBus campaign, subtly urging users to book bus tickets online. Made by advertising agency McCann Worldgroup, Bengaluru, the new campaign consists of two television spots featuring Dhoni as Balbir Singh, captain of a hockey team and Raja Babu, an egotistical and power-wielding local politician, played by film actor, Gajraj Rao of 'Badhai Ho' fame. Riding on the election and cricket fever, the campaign delivers the message of why online booking provides users with options to pick seats of their choice, best prices and ease of rescheduling the trip.

While the first film shows Dhoni (Balbir Singh) explaining to the local politician (Raja Babu) how he can use redBus app to book seats of his convenience, in the second film the same neta falls prey to a travel agent’s deceitful ticket pricing, to be alerted in time by Balbir Singh.

"The bus market in India is heavily indexed towards South with 55% of the market belonging to the region. Over the last four years, the south market has come online, while the north market is still mostly offline that we want to capture. Therefore we decided to leverage the popularity of MS Dhoni in our advertising who could take our brand message to users in the North," according to Prakash Sangam, chief executive, redBus.

Apart from television, the new campaign will be promoted across digital, cinema and outdoor media platforms. RedBus will also execute below-the-line (BTL) activation at various bus boarding points as well as bus interiors. According to Sujay Kar, group director, eCommerce, South East Asia and India at advertising agency VMLY&R, presenting Balbir Singh as strong willed and value-oriented hockey player creates deep impact. “Dhoni almost instantaneously strikes a chord with the North Indian audience, and hence, when captain cool explains the product proposition, the message comes across in a clear and convincing manner," he said.

The ad clearly communicates about how redBus solves one of the core issues that consumers face while booking tickets offline — consumers don’t know where exactly is their seat, how much legroom is there, and what are the features of the bus. RedBus enables offline consumers to make informed, fast and safe decisions. “The ad could have been much more relatable if the politician character wasn’t used. They hardly travel in public buses," he added.

Priya Gurnani, creative head, Publicis Worldwide, Bengaluru, feels that using a current topic (elections) to drive the brand message is always a good idea as it resonates a lot more with the consumer. “Dressing Dhoni as Balbir Singh though is very debatable; this layer does not add anything to the storyline. The ad is trying to be funny but only gets there halfway. Overall, its neither too good nor bad it just falls somewhere in between."