Maruti Suzuki’s AFP gambit with Sab TV show

MUMBAI: If there’s one brand which has been predominant in the television show sponsorship space, it is Maruti Suzuki. With a war chest of approximately Rs 500 crore set aside only for television spends, it is no wonder that the automobile company has been seen as the sponsor for major shows across channels throughout the year.

From Star Plus’ Aaj Ki Raat Hai Zindagi with the suave Amitabh Bachchan as host, Bigg Boss season 9 on Colors, Sony Liv’s online series Tanlines, Colors’ India’s Got Talent 6Star Sports’ India - SA cricket series and BWF Badminton World Championships to &TV’s singing reality show The Voice, Maruti has made its presence felt on the small screen as a sponsor across various genres of programming.

What's more, the brand has also tied-up with the upcoming action packed fiction series - 24 Season 2 on Colors. While the first season of 24 starring Anil Kapoor in the lead, had Tata Safari Storme as the title sponsor with the car also having a placement in the series, the race this time round has been won by Maruti Suzuki S-Cross, which was launched at the IIFA Awards in Malaysia earlier this year.

Most of these integrated the Maruti product and brand into the show;  it was not the sole sponsor.

But it has always been pushing the envelope on doing things differently. Like it did in the case of the critically acclaimed and profitable YRF  stable movie Mere Dad ki Maruti in 2013. The central protagonist in the feature film is the Maruti Suzuki Ertaga. Maruti Suzuki’s marketing mavens pumped in Rs 6 crore in the Rs 10 crore film, convinced the film production house to include its brand name in the title, have scenes in their showrooms. The initiative got lots of traction, courtesy the theatrical release, television telecast, small video clips, which went viral on digital outlets such as Youtube, Twitter and facebook.

It is attempting something similar in 2015. With two vehicles – the Baleno and S-Cross and a new premium sales channel to launch in 2015, it has expanded its television budget to Rs 500 crore; some of that is being channeled towards televised advertiser funded programmes (AFPs).  One of the brands getting a shot of that marketing money is the Alto 800.

Maruti Suzuki has integrated the tagline of  the small car “Let’s Go” into in Sab TV’s newly launched show Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Let’s Go and the vehicl will be seen frequently in the show as it has been woven into  its storyline.

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi Let’s Go is about the car and how it brings happiness in a family. It showcases how everybody falls in love with that car and that was the idea behind doing the show,” says Deepti Bhatnagar who is producing the show for Sab under the banner of the production house which bears her name.

It narrates the journey of the Ahuja family and how their life takes an exciting turn when they purchase their very first car. Ahuja, who has been working in a bank’s car loan department has always wished for his own car but he has not been able to save enough to make his dream come true. On his 50th birthday, his family decides to gift him a Maruti Alto 800. After that Ahuja’s son, Karan (Romit Raj) starts hearing voices and statements from his family car. Karan realises that nobody except him can hear those sounds. He takes advantage of this situation and decides to make the car his constant conversation companion; moreover it helps him to resolve day to day problems at home and thereby bringing the family closer.

Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Let’s Go is a finite series, with a bank of nine episodes at the time of writing. It  premiered on 28 October and is to  air at 7:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Deepti explains how  Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi Let’s Go came about. “We sent a concept note to them. I had the idea and I spoke to the channel and then we pitched it together,” she says.  “They loved the idea. Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi Let’s Go is a complete Maruti AFP and made only for the company. No other product has been tagged in the show.”

She believes that it is a win-win for the Indian auto major. She points out:  “Maruti Suzuki is one of the biggest car companies in India. It makes much sense to the advertiser as they spend so much on many for their 30 second commercials. Here they are getting an entire show. The series also showcases the features of the car and a lot of detailing of the product is there. Also, we create awareness by showing the driving rules and hence blend the story beautifully with all these things.”

And as Uncle Ben rightly said, with great power comes great responsibility. To this effect, Bhatnagar says, “It’s a difficult show to do because when you have a product, you have many responsibilities and you can’t say the wrong things.  Even while following rules and guidelines, we still manage to create comedy around it.”

She says that’s what gave both Maruti Suzuki and Sab the confidence in her and her production house’s capabilities is her advertising background and the fact she produced “her first AFP show long back for Star TV and then I did a show for Sab - Jo Bhi Biwi Se Kare Pyar for Prestige, which was very successful. It was a sitcom based on cooking, which was completely a new format.” But will Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi Let’s Go take pole position on Sab?

 “It could do well,” says a media analyst. “Though it is up against fiction on Star Plus, events on Colors, it appears to have an interesting light storyline. Sab has its loyal audience.  Healthy promotion could help them to make their appointment with the show. Then the videos could also be rolled out digitally in the form of clips in order to viralise them. In the process, Alto 800 sales could well rise as it is airing during the festival season; a period when car buying rises.”

If this prediction comes true, Maruti and the Alto 800 could well be driving in the fast lane.

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