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|March 8, 2000||
Corporates, cinema in sync for mutual benefit
Neena Haridas in New Delhi
What is common to Electrolux, Sansui, Videocon, Ray Ban, S Kumar's Reid & Taylor and Swatch? Or for that matter, Elizabeth, Pukar, Titanic, Men in Black, World is Not Enough and Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani? It is the new corporate mantra -- join the silver screen bandwagon to catch the eyeballs.
Simply put -- corporate houses have discovered a new carrier for promoting and building their image and products -- cinema. Sample this: Electrolux has tied up for screeing of Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth in India, Sansui brought Pukar, Videocon brought Titanic not to mention the Bond mania created by Reid & Taylor. The screenings of all these movies had major corporate sponsorship -- from creating the pre-release anticipation to post-release excitement.
"Nothing turns on Indians as much as cinema. It encompasses all aspects of Indian life -- and it has no socio-economic biases. All classes relate to cinema. So what better way to attract attention to your products than to associate yourself with this mega medium," says Suhel Seth, chief executive officer, Equus Advertising.
Which is why when Men in Black struck India's capital New Delhi a couple of years ago, Ray Ban went about the town with special premiers, contests and promos. That was also the first time that a corporate house backed a Hollywood blockbuster with muscle and money to the extent that Will Smith's and Tommy Lee Jones' Ray Ban sunglasses became a fashion statement.
Says Abhijeet Sanyal, vice-president (eyewear business & general sales management): "We have done corporate sponsorship for movies in the United States and Europe. It was the first time that we did the same in India with Men in Black. It made good strategic sense for us to cash in here because the key element in the movie was the protagonist's sunglasses. We simply associated ourselves with it."
Two years since Men in Black, the trend seems to be catching up. Now there seems to be a plethora of corporate sponsorship on the silver screen. The latest to enter the bandwagon is white goods major Electrolux which is bringing Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth to the Indian cinema halls.
Says Ram S Ramsundar, chief executive officer, Electrolux India, about his company's decision to associate with Elizabeth: "The company will soon extend the brand from the tumble-wash washing machines and frost-free refrigerators to the entire gamut of home appliances including dish-washers, cooking ranges, deep-freezers, microwave ovens and airconditioners. And hence we need to communicate this change to our consumers. Which is why we have tied up with Quasar Films to sponsor the screening of Elizabeth. I am sure our relationship with Elizabeth will create a distinct identity and increase anticipation for the extension of the Electrolux brand in India." But it is not just Hollywood blockbusters that are getting into screening sponsorships.
Coca-Cola sponsored the screening of multi-starrer Hum Saath-Saath Hain late last year. Says Rahul Dhawan, director (external affairs): "The movie starred most of our endorsers -- Karisma Kapur, Salman Khan and others. They are anyway our endorsers. And sponsoring the screening was a logical extension of our promotion. We aired several HSSH-related ad campaign and built a family environment in the ad in tune with the mood of the movie. December is otherwise a low season for sales and we don't go all out on advertising -- but the movie promo was good enough for the season." Although Coca-Cola did Hum Saath-Saath Hain, Pepsi is known to have refused to sponsor the screening of Titanic in India.
Strange conicidence it may be, but the maximum number of sponsors seem to be from the consumer durables industry. Suhel Seth explains, "Consumer durables are not impulse-purchase products. There are umpteen brands in the market -- multinational and domestic. Every marketer is trying to get the mind-share. Which is why they need to be very focussed and consistent with their advertising. The medium of cinema ensures the advertiser mass appeal. And with the kind of money being splurged on creating excitement about a movie, the advertiser manages to drive home the point to at least a million in the audience. And this is probably the reason for consumer durables companies to be more active in screening sponsorships."
According to industry estimates, sponsorships of this kind could cost the company anywhere between Rs 2 million and Rs 8 million. Says Ray Ban's Sanyal, "More than the money it is the strategic use of your product placement and communication of your image that is important. One could do this without pinching the pocket too much. But yes, the media cost of advertising, outodoor promos, contests et al are borne by the sponsor. Basically, the distributor gains from our effort because we go all out in promoting the film ,which is not generally the case when left to the distributor."
The distributor fraternity, meanwhile, is a happy lot thanks to the growing corporate sponsorship. Uday Kaushik of Paramount Films which brings most of the Hollywood blockbusters to India, says, "It works well with us when a corporate house comes forward to do the screening. They have wide reach and the muscle and money power to create all the excitement around a movie." Swatch, for instance, threw a mega bash on the eve of Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani screening.
Says Ravi Thakran, general manager, Swatch Group - South Asia, "Our involvement with the film is not just screening. We have done a lot of product placement of Swatch brands in the movie. Of course, we have done it with Omega too in the Bond movies. With PBHH we introduced the concept to Bollywood. I think movies are the biggest medium for building your brands and at an optimum cost. Nothing one spends is overspent on this medium because the reach is so vast."
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