A cookie monster hit

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on September 18, 2020 Published on September 18, 2020

Big shot: Launched alongside the IPL, Parle’s 20-20 grew into a ₹1,000-crore brand within five years   -  IMAGE COURTESY: PARLE

Brands big and small wait to make a splash at the IPL whirligig. A quick recap of the few that managed to create bigger waves than others

* Britannia’s Good Day dominated the premium cookie category and Parle was desperate to edge into this segment

* Borrowing from the 20-20 cricket format, Parle hit upon the idea for an in-between meals quick snack

* The name 20-20 was available, which aptly positioned the cookie as a short bite

When the Indian Premier League (IPL) began 12 years ago, there was every expectation that the 20/20 cricket league would become India’s Super Bowl, where brands vie to be seen and heard.


IPL certainly has become an ad revenue juggernaut with over ₹2,000 crore generated in 2019, and campaigns lined up for the 13th edition, starting today in Abu Dhabi. But the question is whether brands batting on the league have scored well. Brand consultant Sanjay Sarma feels that it is still far from the Super Bowl — the football extravaganza in the US — when it comes to showcasing creativity.

Indeed, of late, there have been more misses than sixes, but go back into IPL history and you will find many big wins by brands. Significantly, these wins were by brands that were not sponsors but made creative use of the platform. While most people will be hard-pressed to remember that DLF was the first sponsor of IPL, Vodafone ZooZoos, for instance, is a campaign that even today people fondly connect with the tournament (see box).

But perhaps the best innings was by Parle in the inaugural 2008 edition. The company launched a new product riding on the IPL — one that, a short time after taking the crease, became the second most consumed in its category.

The year was 2007. The first ever T-20 World Cup hosted by South Africa had just ended and India were the champs. Parle’s managers were ideating on a new cookie brand. Till then the biscuit giant was only a mass market leader and had hardly any presence in the premium category. There was Hide & Seek, but it was a super-premium brand. Britannia’s Good Day dominated the premium cookie category and Parle was desperate to edge into this segment.

As it mulled over the product name, inspiration struck. Recalls Mayank Shah, category head of Parle products, “We thought, let’s borrow from the 20-20 cricket format philosophy. Create an in-between meals quick snack product, short and sweet, appealing to youth.”

Luckily the name 20-20 was available, which aptly positioned the cookie as a short bite. And the perfect pitch for a blitzkrieg campaign was the about-to-be-launched IPL. Together with its agency Everest Brand Solutions, Parle created a series of synergistic films that delivered the cookie’s benefits in cricketing vocabulary. The punch line being: “Short mein niptao (get things done quickly)”.

D Rajappa, the then president of Everest Brand Solutions, recalls that it was an utterly disruptive campaign. “While most brands were spending big money on sponsorship, we thought we would take up spots and stay focused on creating an impactful campaign.”

Parle 20-20 had three films in its first IPL innings — ‘The Toss’, ‘The Commentator’, and ‘The Coronation’ — all with the same messaging of making a quick work of things.

The payoff was immense. As Shah says, Parle had no presence in cookies. But in next to no time, 20-20 became the second most sold cookie brand in the premium category. “Within five years it became a ₹1,000-crore brand — in those days a big achievement for an FMCG product.”

He says the best part was that people really related to the communication.

Parle was associated with IPL in eight of its 12 editions. But Shah says it always used the IPL vehicle strategically — advertising only if it had a big message to deliver, a launch, or a relaunch. As he points out, it is too expensive otherwise.

While 20-20 advertised with the IPL for four years, Parle used the tournament for a campaign to convey that Monaco, KrackJack, and Hide & Seek were all part of the Parle umbrella. “Everybody knew these brands individually, but nobody knew they were part of Parle,” he says. Then there was the Parle Full Toss ad during IPL 2013; again, with the name of the brand a play on cricket, it could not go wrong.

Down the years, there have been several memorable campaigns by brands during the IPL, notably Airtel Broadband’s The Impatient Life, in 2009, which captured the restless generation’s angst to get going perfectly. Pepsi’s Crash the IPL, starring Ranbir Kapoor, Amazon’s Chonkpur Cheetahs, and even the noisy Jio Dhana Dhan did stand out.

There were some good campaigns in the 2019 edition — notably Swiggy and PhonePe, but the jury is still out on whether these are remembered more for the recency effect.

ZooZooing with IPL
  • Vodafone has consistently stolen the thunder at IPL with its delightful ZooZoos. The 20-20 tournament was, in fact, where the much-loved egg-shaped characters took birth. Year after year, fans waited for a new edition of the ZooZoo campaign, conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather. If the animated characters stood out (they were actually human actors in body suits) then so did the story lines — for instance, the ode to pace bowling. The brand cashed in on the interest to launch new products or services, says a Vodafone spokesperson. Now, in edition 13, the new merged Vodafone Idea entity — Vi — is all padded up. Can it recreate the magic of the ZooZoos?

Chitra Narayanan

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Published on September 18, 2020
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