IDBI Federal Life Insurance uses sports to drive financial and physical fitness messaging

CMO Karthik Raman reveals how sports-marketing is helping the brand agenda

MUMBAI: Sports is a passionate binding force that brings millions of people together and so forms a crucial pillar of the marketing spends of brands. Sporting events tend to catch a large number of eyeballs. In India, sports-marketing has been quite a trend since decades now. In fact, it saw a 12 per cent y-o-y increase in 2018, as per a WARC report. While earlier it was limited to cricket, many brands have taken the initiative to invest in other sports as well. One such is IDBI Federal Life Insurance.

The prominent life insurance company has been effectively utilising the platform of sport as the primary strategy of its marketing efforts to grow the brand. With a strong emphasis on sports and fitness, the company is the title sponsor of four city marathons in Mumbai, Kochi, Kolkata and New Delhi and has Sachin Tendulkar as its face. recently interacted with IDBI Federal Life Insurance CMO Karthik Raman to understand the core strategy behind investing in sports-marketing and other related aspects.

Edited excerpts follow:

How is IDBI Federal Life Insurance using sports as a platform for efficient marketing? How does associating with sports and athletes complement the brand image?

Since the last four to five years, we have been following an unconventional approach to marketing by using the route of sports and fitness. Our purpose at IDBI Federal is to empower people to create the life and lifestyle of their choice. So while financial fitness and security is one part of this empowerment, we believe that an individual also needs to focus on his physical fitness and well-being in order to truly lead a healthy lifestyle. With both, our CEO Vighnesh Shahane and I, coming from sports backgrounds, we began thinking that using the platform of sports would help us communicate our purpose to our customers. The life insurance industry has a lot of players with most of them speaking the same language of fear and negativity. We wanted to break through this clutter and speak about positivity, health and wellness.

With the cricketing space being over-crowded in this country, we began looking at different avenues and decided to pursue running as it is the easiest way to remain fit. Our first marathon association was with the Spice Coast Marathon in Kochi, followed by New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. The popularity of our marathons reached a new level when we signed on Sachin Tendulkar as the face of our marathons and this year, we had close to 60,000 runners participating across all four marathons.

We have also partnered with the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy for the ‘Quest For Excellence’ programme. This programme is focused on the grass-roots development of budding badminton players in the country who will be the champions of tomorrow. As the next step of this programme, we launched the #YoungChamps initiative where 7 young stars between the ages of 9-12 years have been handpicked by Gopichand and his team and offered the opportunity to undergo full-time training at the Academy for 2 years which will be fully sponsored by us.

How do you see the future of sports-marketing in India? Is it still limited to cricket players or do you see the scope growing to other games as well?

The future of sports marketing in India is definitely looking up. With India’s success in other sporting disciplines at the Olympics combined with massively growing interest in sporting leagues such as kabaddi, football, wrestling, badminton, and volleyball amongst others, we are seeing brands beginning to look outside cricket and invest in other sports as well.

How are you preparing for the upcoming IPL, elections and World Cup season? What are your marketing plans and expenditures?

As mentioned, we adopt an unconventional approach to marketing through the route of sports and fitness. We shall continue to use the digital route with our campaigns. The first quarter of the new financial year also happens to be a lean period for the life insurance business. It would be used to create more awareness about how life insurance is a crucial financial asset one must own; digital shall remain our choice of medium for all communication.

Using icons as brand faces can be a tricky business sometimes. We have seen that recently celeb statement or actions affect the brand as well such as the Hardik Pandya and Aamir Khan controversies. Is IDBI Federal conscious about that?

While a celebrity helps to boost the popularity of the brand and inspires consumer confidence, it is important that he has the right cultural and ethical fit with the brand. We have recently signed on cricketing legend, Sachin Tendulkar as our brand ambassador. Sachin Tendulkar was earlier the face of our marathons and since October last year, he has come on board as our brand ambassador. After his highly successful cricketing career, Sachin has been relentlessly spreading the message of a healthy and fit nation, which resonates very strongly with our purpose of empowering people to create and lead a healthy lifestyle in order to shape a better tomorrow. Sachin’s popularity not only cuts across geographical and demographic barriers, but as a person, he inspires transparency, integrity, and trust, values which we consider crucial at IDBI Federal.

How do you plan the campaigns? Is your internal marketing team a part of the campaign designs or do you hand it over to agencies?

Campaign planning is always a joint effort. While the campaign strategy and direction is decided internally depending upon our product focus, market dynamics and consumer needs, we look to the agency for guidance on the development and execution of the strategy.

How do you utilise various platforms for advertising, say print, TV, OOH, and digital? What is the ideal spending for each? How many slots do you usually purchase?

While we were earlier used a lot of ATL advertising, we have now realised that digital not only helps us achieve the desired reach but allows us to do so at a fraction of the cost. Our latest campaigns like the recently launched #KeepMoving movement and our popular Term Insurance videos have been executed primarily on digital platforms. However, around the time of our marathons, we do some targeted print, radio, and outdoor advertising. Keeping this in mind, we allocate close to 60 per cent of our budget to digital, while the remaining goes towards print and outdoor.

What are your marketing plans for this fiscal? Tell us more about your budgets, associations and upcoming campaigns.

We launched our #KeepMoving campaign earlier this year in partnership with Sachin. Through this movement, we want to redefine the idea of fitness for India to drive home the message that in order to create and lead a healthy lifestyle, it is important to focus on both physical fitness and financial fitness. We created a series of short films featuring him which urged audiences to log onto our #KeepMoving microsite and take a test to help them understand their current physical and financial fitness levels. Over the next few months, we will look to drive further awareness about this campaign across the country. We will also be continuing our association with the four marathons as well as the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy for the ‘Quest For Excellence’ and #YoungChamps programmes.

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