India’s ITC swings for mass awareness for F&B portfolio with IPL sponsorship
With the 2023 tournament in full swing, The Drum explores the brand sponsors and partners that are leveraging the event’s popularity to connect with audiences. In this edition, we look at ITC Limited’s IPL plans this year.
Indian Premier League (IPL) is one of the biggest sporting events in India, with millions of viewers tuning in to watch the matches every year. And an association with IPL, confesses Shuvadip Banerjee, chief digital marketing officer (CDMO) - ITC Limited, in an exclusive chat with The Drum, “takes the traditional approach of pure play reach, placing frequent content and creating brand awareness.”
Studies conducted by ITC have shown that attention rates are higher for ads during Cricket/IPL season than for other genres. Despite the expense and clutter, being associated with the tournament has proven to be an effective way of reaching the target audience and creating brand visibility, says Banerjee.
While ITC has associated with the cricketing event in the past, this year it has pulled out all the stops for a strategic association for three of its brands - Sunfeast Super Milk, B-Natural and ITC Master Chef Creations, with three different IPL teams.
The IPL game plan
ITC Foods has inked a multi-brand, multi-team association with IPL this year, says Banerjee. “The idea and intent are to activate multiple properties leveraging the association and creating assets that resonate with the target audience.”
The playbook includes Sunfeast Super Milk biscuit partnering with Chennai Super Kings (CSK) as their ‘official strong biscuit partner’, ITC Master Chef Creations collaboration with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) as the ‘official gourmet food partner’, B Natural Juices & Beverages partnership with Punjab Kings as ‘official fruit beverage partner’ and Bingo! as ‘official associate sponsor’ on JioCinema for IPL. “With the Bingo association, the idea is to leverage JioCinema's large digital audience and create a strong brand presence,” adds Banerjee.
There is also a strategic fit and reason for the brands chosen and the teams they are aligned with, explains Banerjee. B Natural, as well as the juices and beverage category, for example, have a strong play in North India – hence the association with the Punjab Kings team.
Tamil Nadu is a strong market for the milk biscuit category, and Super Milk has been recently launched as part of the Sunfeast portfolio bringing in the local cultural codes of the category – hence the association with the Chennai Super Kings team.
ITC Master Chef Creations' collaboration with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) has happened on the back of the fact that currently, the cloud kitchens are located only in Bengaluru.
The 2023 media plan and the innovations
“ITC, as a company and a food brand, has been increasing its focus on digital media, followed by television and other platforms. This has allowed us to reach our target audience across various touchpoints and create an omnichannel brand experience,” shares Banerjee.
“Interestingly, since IPL is out of the paywall, we have seen some unprecedented engagement on digital platforms this time.”
While the IPL association cost has increased, when it comes to maximizing ROI, Banerjee says portfolio brands have considered several strategies to stand out from the clutter.
Sunfeast Supermilk’s collaboration with Chennai Super Kings as official ‘strong milk biscuit partner’
This association includes two ‘super’ brands of Tamil Nadu - Super Kings, which is a fan favourite, and Supermilk, which has seen a very successful launch recently. The entire essence of the association is to encourage fans to become super fans by consuming a strong milk biscuit and doing a strong whistle. In conjunction with the campaign, a ‘super strong’ fan anthem has also been created ‘Ready Madi Adi’ (translated as ‘get ready, fold your fingers & blow a whistle’ in Tamil). Further amplification of the anthem is being done via the creation of snackable content/contests as well as a partnership with WhistlePodu Army, the official CSK fan club.
ITC Master Chef Creations collaboration with RCB as ‘official gourmet food partner’
This collaboration is a coming together of the well-known culinary expertise of ITC with the passion and energy for IPL. ITC Master Chef Creations is the company’s food tech-cloud kitchen offering in Bengaluru. The proposition for the association is ‘RCB is bold on the field, while Creations gives bold flavours off the field’. On-ground presence was channelized with ITC Master Chef Creations, presenting a specially curated match menu for consumers in Bengaluru. Alongside content has been created with players like Virat Kohli, Dinesh Kartik and Harshal Patel, to create the buzz that would encourage trial and participation.
B Natural association with Punjab Kings as the ‘Official Fruit Beverage Partner’
This collaboration helped in promoting the company’s range of fruit beverages to a wider audience, shares Banerjee. A campaign #MatchReadyBNaturalDeNaal was launched with the messaging around encouraging consumers to be match ready with the help of the fruit and fibre beverages offering.
The IPL lessons
For Banerjee, this IPL has been around a couple of key learnings: 1) crafting content for the moment and 2) planning ahead of time to activate every avenue available to us.
These he counts as two of his biggest learnings. “We need to be able to anticipate what our target audience wants and provide the same to them in a relevant and engaging way, " he shares. This includes “on-ground activations, social media campaigns, digital marketing, influencer marketing, e-commerce partnerships etc.” Having a well-planned and integrated approach can help create a cohesive brand experience for the target audience across all touchpoints.