?Last week, the 21st Century Fox-owned Star India unveiled its grand plan for sports that it has been piecing together for over a year. STAR, India’s premier media and entertainment company, unveiled a new brand for Star Sports across six TV channels — Star Sports 1,2,3,4, HD1 and HD2 and starsports.com. With an investment of over Rs 20,000 crore, the brand highlights the Star network’s ambition to change the face of sports broadcasting in India. Six channels on television and a vibrant website are are alreadyon and a slew of on-ground activities are planned.
To signal the change to the consumer, Star Sports announced the new network with a campaign that urges India to “Believe”. The campaign, says Gayatri Yadav, Executive Vice President Marketing & Communications, Star India, is based on a core insight that consumers are searching for hero moments in their life. “They want to strive for better and realize their own potential for greatness. Our belief is that everyone can take part and share in greatness. We can all be inspired. The mission is to bring the fan closer to heroes than ever before.Our aim is to inspire the hero in you. “
India cricket captain M S Dhoni is the first “Believe” ambassador. The campaign is created by Abhijit Awasthi and team of Ogilvy. An innovative media placement across news dailies with jacket ads and moving up of the sports page to the front of the paper was initiatied. News channel Aaj Tak (which was incidentally once headed editorially by Star India CEO Uday Shankar) saw Star Sports coming on before the Aaj Tak brand and anchors wore Star Sports T-shirts. On digital the thought was taken forward with all news becoming sports news on Yahoo and MSN networks. There was a strong engagement with fans on Facebook and the objective of reaching over 15 million views for the new look on Day 1 itself!
Simultaneously, a TV campaign to promote ‘Star Sports 3′, the 24×7 Hindi Sports channel with Navjot Singh Sidhu extolling the virtues of Hindi was created by McCann.
“The bold new star icon is to stand for a new era of sport,” adds Ms Yadav. The star is sharp, bold and iconic. It brings strength and authority to the channel. The fiery trail ignites and unites every sport, every player and every fan.”
Hmmm. We didn’t leave it at just the unveiling of the brand story which the Star group marketing head gave MxMIndia exclusively.
Presenting a Q&A with Gayatri Yadav, Executive Vice President Marketing & Communications at Star India.
So for how long have you’ll been working on this refresh?
We been working on this for about a year now and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the brand and what do we want to stand for, its values and what should be the identity of the brand and we were convinced that we needed a brand with a strong purpose and we wanted to build not just a leading sports brand in India which we are already but make it one of the most iconic brands in the world. And then we started work the brand identity being co-created across three continents with the Star Broadcast Design team in India working with Venture 3 in the UK who worked on the brand identity and Capacity who designed the broadcast package.
The rest of the sports network specially in Asia changed ESPN to Fox Sports. So why the shift in India?
It was a choice between Fox or Star and we just felt that Star is one of the iconic aspiration of brands in India and it make sense to bring sports under the Star banner. We also think that there’s a lot that Star as a brand can give to sports and there’s a lot that sports can give to Star, so there a mutually positive re-enforcing relationship.
We considered what is the best brand option whether it should be Fox whether it should be Star whether it should be completely new brand. Star as a brand has such a strong Indian identity as well and has this connect with consumers. The Star entertainment brand has a very strong connect with women and with sports now we have a very deep connect with men as well and therefore the brand extension into sports makes a lot of sense for us strategically.
Is there any difference that we see in the sports offering before and after the change?
Earlier we had a clutch of very strong channels but there was no overarching brand identity. So there was ESPN which took premium sports, Star Cricket which catered to the cricket audience and Star Sports. I think it also got a little confusing for consumers to navigate on what sports was coming from what channel. Today we have just one platform one brand and one purpose and one of the overwhelming feedback we already got in the last day or so from people as varied as deep sports fan to the layman is that it its simpler to navigate. We also made a very clear decision not to have several channels for single sports. Star Cricket was such a strong channel and lot of people has asked us why did you retire the Star cricket brand. And I think Uday Shankar puts this best by saying “Cricket is too big to confine to any one channel”. Star Cricket which was a strength at first almost became a constraint because we want to offer consumers the deepest engagement with all forms of cricket.
But while you have one big sports network, in entertainment you have two – Star Plus and the like and the Life OK bouquet. And it’s not Star Plus 1 and 2.
That’s really an interesting question. We decided to create one brand – what the brand strategist would call monolithic brand identity – so it’s one brand Star Sports spread across six channels and you can find your content anywhere so it’s almost multiplex branding if you ask me where you walk into the Star Sports stadium and Screen 1 is showing this and Screen 2 is showing that and so on because it’s one brand one purpose, one consumer connect but we have so much content to offer to you that you can find it in continuum of channels.
But why not adopt the same policy for sports that you did in entertainment?
We segmented Star Plus and Life OK differently because they are talking to different consumers. The whole identity of Star Plus is also about an aspiration of emerging India. Life OK is talking to conservative India to whom we like to show that value of life is indeed Ok. So we needed two brands because we are addressing two different mindsets, two different consumer constituencies and therefore needed necessarily to have a different brandname and in sports we decided to take a monolithic brand strategy where there it’s one brand one purpose and the best way to describe it is think of it as a 96-hour channel where you can find your content spread across multiple channels and we could add more as time goes by.
Did the new orientation of the channels also mean re-orient your faces, your commentators some of who are the biggest names in the games?
We have a great panel of commentators. It is important to orient people not by way of re-training them but look at how the lens of storytelling changes a little bit. Explaining what the sportsperson was thinking about and not just the plot of the game.
You had these sessions even with Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev?
We had these workshops where the focus is on storytelling and what kind of story you want to tell.
While your credo ‘Believe’ continues to be that in the Hindi ads too, your channel even has the scorecard in Hindi.
This was a commitment we made for the channel. It is India’s first 24×7 Hindi sports channel.
Will there be any dumbing down of the commentary to gather a new set of viewers
Not at all, there is no question of dumbing down but we do think that we need to explain the game better, we need to engage better, we need to be more entertaining, we need to provide insights, we need to help the consumer to know what’s going on and read the heroes mind and why he took a decision… so it’s all about telling a better story. It’s all about engaging and connecting the consumers and telling the story of sport in a more meaningful and provocative way
Last year, you tied up with a sports recreation centre in Mumbai called Smaaash. Will the connecting with consumers happen on the ground as well and do we see more of these in other cities?
When we undertook Smaaash, we worked to co-create the brand with Shripal Morakhia. We knew we wanted it to be this great destination and the strategy was to take the brand experience from ON AIR to OFF AIR and let the people live the brand so Smaaash powered by or inspired by Star Sports for me is a very important part of our strategy
Is that going to be extended to various other cities?
So when it is going to happen?
Shortly, and it is a very important part of our strategy as a Smaaash really allows you to live the brand.
Anything else other than Smaaash that is going to happen?
We also started doing lot of engagement in terms of ground screenings. Star Sports dug-outs is something that we are working on.
Which is nightspots and lounges airing your content on large screens?
Correct, not much as lounges but creating spaces where people can come and watch sports together.
So will you have a separate team doing that given that it’s an all-new activity?
We are actually building up our entire events and application team. It’s not going to be only connecting with consumers ON AIR but on the ground as well.
Any targets in terms of numbers… ratings?
Like I said it’s just begun… it is beginning of the journey. It’s not just about a week’s ratings…
The acquisition costs are high and the dollar rate has gone up, so obviously the emphasis is on marketing delivering the numbers. Any targets on that?
I think numbers are out of the scope of this discussion (laughs)