Interview: "I would prefer every IPL match goes to the last ball" - Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior Vice President Marketing, United Breweries Limited
With the IPL coming to a close this Sunday, Sportskeeda had a chance to speak to Mr. Samar Singh Sheikhawat, Senior Vice President Marketing, United Breweries Limited about Kingfisher's association with the IPL teams as the Good Times Partner.
1. How do United Breweries connect with sports in terms of their vision?
We believe sports and beer marketing are inextricably connected and over the years, the connection has only strengthened. UB are a part of cricket through the IPL, Formula 1 through Force India, Football through Kingfisher East Bengal, Coorg World Hockey, Marathons, the Kingfisher derby (Horse racing), and Sailing. It is clear that sports and beer go hand in hand, and we encourage sports actively, and have looked to increase focus on niche sports.
2. How has your association with the IPL teams been so far?
It has been good, I can give you a proper answer only after proper research, but in general, we are quite happy. The TV ratings are good, brand values have been good and we are a top ranked brand associated with teams. It took some time; was a little slow to start off because of the first leg being overseas. But having come back to India, we have found that the gate receipts are the same and TV ratings are more or less similar.
The digital initiative – 3G and 4G viewing of IPL matches on the phone and TV commercials doing very well have helped us a lot. We are focused on a lot of consumer activities at stadiums to keep the fans engaged.
3. The Kingfisher Bowl Out had a great turnout in Bangalore. How did you come up with the concept of this event?
This was an idea that I personally came up with as I had seen something when I was earlier working with Pepsi. Basically, what we mean to convey is the Kingfisher experience- something money can't buy. We give an individual a chance to bowl to legendary cricketers, bat against top bowlers; it helps realize the dream of many. We decided to conduct it in the mall because it helps get a good audience. The event had a proper build up, followed by the finals, with audience participation and consumer involvement. With the players walking in, MCs running the whole event, it makes for a real experience day long experience.
4. Which city have you seen the greatest excitement and turnout for the Kingfisher IPL themed events?
Without a doubt, Bangalore and Mumbai. Chennai too is at the same level as the both of them. These three franchises have a a very fiercely loyal support. Hyderabad and Delhi come next.
5. Apart from cricket, United Breweries have been actively involved in football as partners with East Bengal. How has this partnership turned out for United Breweries so far and how do your foresee the partnership going forward?
We have helped them overhaul their infrastructure. The gymnasium has been refurbished, a new club house built, great practice pitches and facilities in the stadiums, we have helped provide funding for players, coaching staff and physios; all that is necessary for a football team in the new age. They have an air conditioned team bus.
And, East Bengal have given us a lot of success; they've finished 2nd in the I-League this year which I believe is the 3rd year in a row. The success and progress in the AFC Cup was really great, both on and off the field. We have the 2nd largest facebook community in Asia, and 42nd largest in the world, which says a lot about the appeal East Bengal carry. There have been a lot of consumer interactions, player profiling and player interactions, all of which have brought the club closer to the community.
6. What is the thought process behind the Kingfisher Big Chair event? How do you see it relating to the IPL?
A lot of the IPL consumers are digital, and constantly mobile. Kingfisher is the no 3 beer community in the world and we have 7 million fans on social media. We offer the best experiences. With the Big Chair event, our plan was to promote our motto– Divided by teams, United by Kingfisher – there is merchandise to be won, match tickets were part of the prize. Basically, we wanted to bring fans close to the game through Kingfisher, and it has been great.
7. Tell us a little more about the Missed call League. How exactly does it work?
We have a Mobile first digital program as we reoriented our platforms for mobile phones. This event is similar to the Beer Premier league. One enters a contest through a missed call, the calls are aggregated across service providers and details are shared on Twitter and Facebook. The goodies available included match tickets and invites to parties. The mobile platforms allowed us to reach out to a much larger number of people in much less time.
8. Kingfisher (and United Breweries) has been involved in Formula 1 for 6 years now. How has the experience been?
In one word, Noisy! We are really very happy as the team have finished better every year. This year already Sergio Perez has got a podium and we have been competing for the 3rd position in the Constructors’ Championship, which is great. Both Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez are great personalities. Force India has given Kingfisher another vehicle to communicate with younger, affluent adults. The association with beer stays, and although it is an expensive proposition, it helps you stay with the consumer.
9. A personal question to finish, what are your sporting interests and which team do you support in the IPL?
I used to play every sport under the sun. I played Basketball for India during my college days. Nowadays, I play Table Tennis, Tennis, lift weights, basically a bit of everything.
Talking about the IPL, I would prefer every match goes to the last ball, so that the fans can drink our beer till they leave! During the auction, I had mentioned to my team that Kings XI Punjab will do well. As we saw, Punjab performed in a scintillating manner this season and I was happy to be proved right.
In the future, I hope they can change the format to a best of 3 finals and eventually maybe switch to a league format to decide who wins the IPL, as it keeps it even all through.