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Uday Sodhi, Paritosh Srivastava decode SonyLIV’s sports campaign strategy

Sony might have lost the bid for broadcast rights for the Indian Premier League, but it is making up for that loss with an aggressive marketing and campaign strategy for its sports properties. The Network had rolled out an extensive campaign for the FIFA World Cup 2018, which is reaching its final stage this week. After thrilling football fans, Sony is now all geared to engage cricket fans with India’s tour of England and Ireland. 

The Network’s OTT platform, SonyLIV, has been seeing a lot of action in terms of viewer engagement through digital campaigns and various initiatives. SonyLIV’s campaign, #ScreamLoud, created for the FIFA World Cup 2018 has been gaining great traction through the tournament. The campaign has been ranked No. 7 in YouTube Ads Leaderboard comprising the top 10 most-watched ads related to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, which includes ads from around the world.

Earlier this year, the number of monthly active users (MAUs) on SonyLIV saw a drastic jump, placing the brand at the No. 3 spot as per App Annie. 

The #ScreamLoud campaign by SonyLIV echoes the passion of fans and followers of the game who are so involved that they end up screaming to cheer for their favourite star or country. Along with the ad campaign, SonyLIV brought to its viewers a host of innovations this year to make the game more engaging on all screens. These included features like key moments, highlights, match playbacks (VOD) and real time updates added to the seamless viewer experience. 

Now, SonyLIV is all geared to tap into India’s first love – Cricket. The platform has come up with a campaign around India’s tour of England, which celebrates the passion Indians have brought to the game of cricket and how the English invented the game, but we made it a religion. It is time Indians taught the English how to play the game; it is time to #SchoolTheEnglish, exclusively on SonyLIV. 

Earlier, more than 170 million users viewed India’s tour of South Africa on SonyLIV after the first four matches. With the India-England series, SonyLIV looks to further establish itself as the go-to destination for sports in the country. 

Adgully spoke to Uday Sodhi, EVP and Head-Digital Business, Sony Pictures Networks (SPN), and Paritosh Srivastava, COO, Publicis Ambience, to know more about the campaign strategy for India’s tour of England, as well as what were the major gains from SonyLIV’s FIFA campaigns. Excerpts: 

What was the brief received for the #ScreamLoud campaign? What was the creative strategy behind the campaign?
Paritosh Srivastava: I would like to mention here that SonyLIV’s #ScreamLoud campaign is ranked No. 7 on YouTube. 

India is an emerging football nation, with pockets which are very active and people are now getting very familiar with this sport. The key thing for us was how do we create a narrative different from a typical sporting brand communication that the country has seen, specially the kind of visuals and the imaginary and the philosophical path that you have seen that happen for cricket campaigns, soccer campaigns and for the Indian Premier League, etc. 

People access SonyLIV content on their mobile phones, which is a personal medium. Therefore, the whole idea was how do we interact with the viewers on a personal level, how to capture an emotion which is closest to the consumer while watching the game. Football is 90 minutes of fast-paced action, during which people are deeply involved in the game – they shout out their support, scream in celebration and generally let their emotions out. That’s where the whole idea came – how the whole country has lost its voice because of excessive screaming during the football match the previous night. 

I credit Bobby Pawar with coming up with such kind of ideas, and thank Uday Sodhi and Abhishek Joshi for grasping the beauty of the idea. We got everyone’s support to successfully execute the campaign in the way we wanted to, in terms of the quality and in terms of the production. 

We didn’t want to do a typical sports campaign where we got a number of people wearing the same jerseys and screaming and shouting at the same time. We wanted to capture people’s emotions while watching the match. 

We knew we had a great idea on FIFA, but we never imagined that the ad will go on to be ranked seventh or that we would be able to beat the likes of Adidas and Nike. It’s a surprise beyond belief for us. We are absolutely elated. 

Uday Sodhi: Just to add to that, it’s a huge achievement for an Indian brand to be in FIFA’s list of top ads selected by YouTube, because FIFA World Cup is a global tournament where thousands of ads are created across the world by every iconic big brand with iconic stars. To stand out amid that clutter of ads is a great achievement for us and it’s great for India because it puts our advertising community in the global arena. It also amplifies the fact that we are as good as anybody in the world when it comes to creating great campaigns. 

Sony also started the second screen during the FIFA World Cup. How effective has the second screen been?
Uday Sodhi: Second screen has been very exciting because for the first time consumers while watching television can participate and the feedback goes back to the TV in real time. I think through the studio programme we have been able to do that very effectively. So far, 8-10 million users have participated in the second screen initiative. We have seen significant consumption coming in from both the second screen as well as from the additional data feeds that we provided on football. 

Thus, we have done 2-3 big things during FIFA this time over and above what we normally do in terms of providing Live streaming coverage. We also introduced language feeds in digital. Third thing we did was provide data for the fanatics out there and minute to minute update for the users. We are seeing a lot of engagement out there, where it’s not only the viewer coming to us, but the fan. 

With the FIFA World Cup coming to an end this week, what is the campaign strategy for the cricket season now?
Paritosh Srivastava: We have come up with an interesting campaign – called #Epic70DaysBattle. The campaign comes from the phrase that cricket was invented in the England, but has become a religion in India; and given the current Indian team’s standing in the world of cricket, we are going to teach England the way the game is going to be played. Thankfully, after taking such a bold stance, at least we have proved it right with the T20 series win. 

The hashtag #Epic70daysbattle has taken on very well and I am sure the viewership will be very good with that as well. 

Could you tell us about the ad inventory for this cricket series? What are the ad rates?
Uday Sodhi: The inventory is very good, we have already got 3-4 sponsors on board and as the series grows and gains more traction, there will be more joining in. The ad rates are in the range of Rs 1,000 per CPM, which is a good sporting ad rate. The good part is FIFA and cricket are overlapping due to which we have got a lot of hands on the app. 

The current India’s tour of England has started bang in the middle of the FIFA World Cup, which is now in its Semi-Final stage? Is it in some way cannibalising your viewers?
Uday Sodhi: It’s actually helping us because the viewers are already there, so we find a fair number of consumers who are tracking both. Fortunately, there is very little overlap as the matches take place at different timings even if they are being played on the same day. People are also switching between the two games. Interestingly, the consumer is on the app so we didn’t have to go out and market and shout and scream about it. 

FIFA World Cup 2018 has reportedly given you Rs 250 crore in ad sales. On SonyLIV how has your inventory been for FIFA?
Uday Sodhi: It’s been very good. The numbers that you have got includes SonyLIV, where we have about 15-20 advertisers. Some of them are TV advertisers and some are digital advertisers.

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