Marketing

Ab Bas Hockey

Chitra Narayanan | Updated on October 04, 2018

A new score Music maestro A R Rahman tunes into hockey

Specially prepared hockey sticks that capture the heart-beats of hockey fans across the country

It’s hockey’s turn for a place in the sun, as Odisha goes all out to create a memorable World Cup campaign

The sun, the sand, the Olive Ridley sea turtles, are all coming together to music maestro A R Rahman’s rousing beats in the biggest hockey tournament that India has ever hosted.

Ab Bas Hockey, says Odisha, as the host State goes all out to create a memorable marketing campaign, encouraging fans to flock to the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneswar for the Hockey World Cup’s 14th edition from November 28 to December 16.

The opening ceremony will see a sky-jumper wearing the costume of the mascot — Olly, the Olive Ridley turtle — hurtle down, even as Gulzar’s inspiring lyrics (Jai Hind, Hind, Jai India/ Maathe pe Vijay ki Bindiya), set to music by Rahman, resound in the auditorium.

The sun shines

Team India’s new-look jersey, designed by Narendra Kumar, will sport the best known elements of Odisha, from the Sun temple to the Odishi dance. The logo, strategically placed on the heart, has the Konark wheel at the centre with a hockey stick, an Olive Ridley turtle, Odishi dance and the sun as the four elements around it.

But the most emotional moment during the opening ceremony will be when the captains of the 16 competing teams will be presented with the recorded collective heartbeats of Indians, to show how the country’s heart beats for hockey. ‘Heartbeats for Hockey’ is the splashy central theme of Odisha’s big-ticket association with the sport, riding on emotion, pride and nostalgia.

But before that, on October 10, a special match featuring past and present India players and pegged as the Clash of the Titans — Dhanraj Pillay XI v/s. Dilip Tirkey XI — will take place at the newly refurbished Kalinga Stadium.

With a brand new blue turf and expanded capacity — the stadium can now house over 15,000 people — the Odisha government wants to show to the world that it is ready with international standard facilities, and what better way than a nostalgia-inducing match, featuring Dhanraj Pillay and Dilip Tirkey, among others!

Says former India hockey captain and CEO of Olympic Gold Quest, Viren Rasquinha, “It’s a smart strategy to hold the World Cup in Odisha where you can be guaranteed full house. It promises to be the biggest and best World Cup of all time.” Rasquinha is bubbling over with excitement at the thought of picking up the hockey stick again as he squares off against his old team-mates in the Clash of the Titans match next week. Forget IPL, forget FIFA World Cup, it’s only hockey from now, says brand strategist Nupur Mahajan, who has architected the entire marketing campaign for the Hockey World Cup.

The build-up began over 4-5 months ago but as the event draws near, the pace has picked up, with several unique engagements to connect with the crowd.

The build-up

Odisha, says Mahajan, is a State where hockey is in everyone’s DNA. Literally every person in the State is a hockey fanatic and both the men’s and women’s national teams boast several players from the State.

This February, Odisha decided to step up its association with hockey by becoming the first State to sponsor India’s national hockey teams — men, women, junior boys and girls — replacing Sahara in a deal rumoured to be around ₹150 crore.

Says Mahajan, “Normally, the sponsor’s role is transactional in nature. But Odisha’s brief to me was to create cool brand attributes for hockey so that it can appeal to a multitude of people.”

The larger goal was to make hockey cool again and lift its stature.

And that’s how Ab Bas Hockey — the line — was written, she says.

But while it worked as a tag line, there needed to be a call to action. And that’s how the Heartbeats for Hockey campaign was conceived. In July, specially designed hockey sticks, which opened in the middle and were loaded with software that could record heartbeats, were launched that would travel all over the country.

These sticks will be seen in colleges, malls, airports, and will also be taken to those villages that have delivered national hockey players.

Now, a microsite — www.heartbeatsforhockey.com — has also been launched, where hockey lovers can pledge their love and support for the game at a click of the mouse. Then came hockey addas — discussion sessions between legends of the game, followed by a web series called Hockey ki Pathshaala, where players like Sandeep Singh will give short lessons on the game. According to Mahajan, one idea has flowed from another to create a seamless series of promotions.

“We have not spent on big print ads or TV ads,” she points out. Most of the engagement has been on ground, on web, and taken on quite quirky routes. For instance, team India’s new jersey — the World Cup Collection — was launched almost like a fashion show.

Influencers aboard

Now that we are just a month-and-a-half away from the event, Mahajan is tapping influencers. Rahman and Gulzar are the first two, creating a theme song for the event, incidentally a first for hockey.

The last leg of the campaign will see more influencers join in, she says, hinting that a superstar who played hockey in his childhood could be the next one in.

Odisha Tourism is pitching in, too, with lovely campaigns like “Odisha by morning, hockey in the evening,” placed strategically in airports, buses across the country and cities like London.

It all certainly sounds exciting. But will it prompt Indians to pick up the hockey stick and start playing again?

Rasquinha has his doubts. As he points out, ultimately, marketing and branding will only go so far. It all hinges on team India’s performance during the Cup.

And this year, our performance at the Asian Games was below par.

However, the cheers of a supportive home crowd could just be the impetus for team India to put its best stick forward.

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Published on October 04, 2018
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