“This is a campaign which money can't buy”: Sony Sports Network’s Neville Bastawalla

“This is a campaign which money can't buy”: Sony Sports Network’s Neville Bastawalla

The campaign shines a spotlight on the unsung heroes of Indian sports.

Neville Bastawalla

Mumbai: Ahead of the 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022, official broadcasters, Sony Sports Network, launched the grandest campaign in the history of the Asian Games in India. In order to ensure that the message ‘Iss Baar Sau Paar, Phir se, Hum Hongey Kamyab’ resonates across every corner of India, Sony Sports Network has garnered support from an impressive line-up of influential and iconic figures such as the Union Minister of Sports, Anurag Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff, Lt General Anil Chauhan along with Chiefs of Tri-Services General Manoj Pande, Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar and Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari who have put their might behind the Indian athletes vying for top honours at the prestigious multi-sporting event.  

Recognising the power of collective ambition, the campaign shines a spotlight on the unsung heroes of Indian sports – those who have relentlessly dedicated themselves to their respective disciplines and are on the precipice of donning the national colours at this esteemed multi-sport event.

This vast consortium unites with a singular purpose: to challenge Indian athletes to transcend past records, push boundaries, and ignite a nationwide fervour for sports. The strategy stands clear: a united India, cheering in unison, can inspire its athletes to unprecedented heights.

Indiantelevision.com in a telephonic conversation with Sony Sports Network, SPN, head, marketing & on-air promotions, Neville Bastawalla, on the thought behind the campaign, the strategy to rope in our armed forces to motivate our athletes and much more……

Edited excerpts

On the Asian Games campaign by Sony Sports Network

I worked on a large multi-sporting campaign for the first time during the 2020 Olympics. Our mission was to galvanise the nation. The questions we asked ourselves were: Who are the heroes of the nation and how do you galvanise the nation? The heroes of the nation go beyond Bollywood stars. Starting with the late General Bipin Rawat who was then the Chief of Defence Staff at that time, Sudha Murty, Parth, and Sajjan Jindal of JSW who do a lot for sports in India and so many more who came on board for the campaign. That's how we built a massive campaign for the Tokyo Olympics, and that expanded our all-data points. Whether it was revenue, ratings, viewership or digital interaction, we went to the next level. Our campaign for the Olympic Games taught us, that we should not give up "hum honge kamyab" however we would make it relevant to the Asian Games.

India has won 69 medals in 2018, the maximum tally so far in a single edition of this marquee event. We decided that we would give out a war cry "This time we will cross 100 medals’ and galvanise the athletes as well as the nation. When the Indian contingent returned from Tokyo, we met a few of them. And they told us that our campaign and the whole nation really made them feel very supported. Our Honourable Sports Minister, Shri Anurag Thakur along with a couple of parliamentarians with him went outside the parliament during the Olympics, and he gave out the war cry of "hum honge kamyab" with the victory punch. The campaign actually resonated, and the athletes said this was the first time ever they felt the nation was backing them.

Cricket has always been an appointment viewing while multi sports events were never appointment viewing. Now that is no longer the case; people are actually tuning in to watch multi-sporting events like the Olympics and Asian Games. This makes it destination viewing and this is very important for multi-sporting events, which we are doing this time for the Asian Games. Our line is "Iss baar, sau paar, hum phir se honge kamyab" .

We went to the Srinagar forward base and filmed Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, taking a sortie in one of our latest aircrafts. We filmed General Pande, Chief of Army Staff in Delhi, General Anil Chauhan in the South Block and Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of Naval Staff on INS Vishakapatnam. The Navy in fact got us access to shoot with a submarine commander. I personally went inside the submarine and was in the helicopter base. The helicopters were dancing in front of us for the camera crew. That kind of show of support from our armed forces for our athletes is unheard of. Then Aamir Khan came on board as a big supporter of the athletes, especially the women athletes. We now have Amitabh Bachchan, Sudha Murthy, John Abraham, Abhishek Bachchan, Kapil Sharma, Sunny Deol, Madhuri Dikshit, Hema Malini and so many more all on board to support our athletes.

On how the campaign was handled

This is serious perseverance by my team. We also reached out to the Chief Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, The President of India. We reached out to our Honourable President and even got an approval from her office that she is on board. However due to the paucity of time, they could not manage to schedule a shoot with her. Each marketeer should have a mission and the belief to do new things or to do things differently or just do something big, If there is that fire in your chest or in your heart, big things will happen.

With regard to Chief of Defence Staff, Lt General Anil Chauhan along with Chiefs of Tri-Services General Manoj Pande, Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar and Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari: It took us two or three months to contact them and schedule meetings in Delhi followed by multiple conference calls with multiple officers from each of the Armed Forces, explaining to them the concept & storyboard and how we would execute it. Each of the divisions is extremely professional and the knowledge they have of filmmaking is outstanding.

On what makes Sony Sports Network different

We do some outstanding storytelling and we want to do things differently. Tent poles are tent poles but how you market them is in the hands of the team. “We exist to boldly challenge the status quo” - that has been Sony Pictures Network’s philosophy. This is what makes Sony Sports Network different.

Our ideas require a lot of belief, and it's not easy. Otherwise, most networks will engage a brand ambassador, pay him or her, and film the campaign. However it doesn't work like that for our Asian Games campaign: this is a campaign that money can't buy. Also, we cannot pay the Armed Forces for the campaign.

On the marketing plan for the campaign

The digital numbers are astounding in terms of reach, engagement, and the kind of patriotism we have. Our campaign that has been plastered across our network channels and social media platforms, features the armed forces, Indian film industry icons as well as our CEO, Mr NP Singh and more, has evoked a strong emotional response. Even the sports journalists of India joined our mission. And for the first time in the history of the Asian Games, the Indian cricket teams, both men and women

Once you have such a huge digital presence, all the Armed Forces are putting these creatives on their platforms, and it's automatically multiplied, and a multiplier effect happens when you have these nations' influencers on board.

On building a national consensus

I am so excited because this is a campaign that every CMO would dream about, and there are no budgets involved. This is an idea-driven campaign. It's very easy for someone to go and get a celebrity, pay for that contract, and do it. This is money that can't buy experience, which is moving the nation. In the Navy Chief’s film, he mentions that the athletes have the prayers of 140 crore Indians. My entire team had tears in their eyes, especially when we were on INS Shikra and the helicopter base in Mumbai.We all thought - We are from a sports network so what are we doing here? We all are very humbled by the support that we received from the Armed Forces, the sports journalists of India, Indian Film Icons, sports heroes and the many more for their support for the Indian Contingent.