Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pepsi T20 - Change the Game

This past Sunday was Father's Day. I woke up thinking that it would have been nice to be able to spend it with my Father in our California home. On most Father's Days, Mother's Days or any other holiday, our family usually wakes up, works out and then eats a hearty breakfast while we go through half of our gifts we have picked out or made for whoever we are celebrating that day.  Then we spend the rest of the day walking on the beach, going shopping or watching the myriad of sports which usually air on important holidays in the US. The night always involves pizza, beer, music and the distribution of the rest of the presents. It may always be the same routine, but I love it and wouldn't change a thing. 

Given that I'm tens of thousands of miles away from my family, it was important that I engage myself in something fun in order to limit the homesick bug which tends to creep up on family centric days like this. Fortunately, my colleagues secured passes to the Pepsi T20 Grand Finale on that Sunday which was exactly the type of "something" I was counting on. http://www.pepsichangethegame.com/

The Pepsi T20 Grand Finale was the finals of the national cage soccer competition Pepsi has been hosting around the country.  It is all part of their "Change the Game" or in Hindi "Ab Badlega Game" campaign which  focuses on changing India's game from cricket to soccer.  The campaign involved a highly run advertisement where Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor is exposed to the power of soccer when a young boy is able to get a Pepsi out a vending machine by heading the ball into it.  The on-ground element involved competitions taking place in 7 cities with amateur players competing in a cage soccer field for the opportunity to play in the final event in Delhi. Highlights of these events were shown on air and online in partnership with ESPN.

The Grand Finale was hosted at Thyagaraj Stadium in Delhi which was built for Netball competitions during the Commonwealth Games. It is actually a beautiful venue which is equivalent to many quality venues one would find in the US. The event was scheduled from 1pm - 9pm and was only for the connected few who could get their hands on passes. My initial thought was how on earth will Pepsi keep 14,000 antsy upper class Delhites entertained for 8 hours? They found a way because the capacity crowd pretty much remained in the stands the entire time. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the event.  The competitions were quick and intense, the music lively and the they incorporated sports and Bollywood superstars incredibly well into the program.  To be honest, over the past 3 years in India I haven't seen a well executed grassroots event and this was extremely well done. Also to see Didier Drogba, Baichung Bhutia, Ranbir Kapoor, MS Dhoni and a number of other cricketers on the same field as a bunch of boys from Delhi filled me with joy. I loved the connection between the amateur players and superstars which is also something you don't usually find in India, a country where stars are literally treated like Gods.  

So from a campaign standpoint it seemed like a success.  I don't know what their initial targets were, but I imagine they surpassed what they were shooting for in terms of participants, media exposure, twitter and Facebook posts and the overall perception of the initiative. The one area which it is easy to be critical though is their messaging about "Changing the Game." I don't think that anyone believes that hosting a nationwide cage soccer competition will really change the game in India, however I respect Pepsi for investing millions of dollars into this campaign because although it did not help the I-League or AIFF, it did get millions of people in India thinking or hearing about soccer in India, something AIFF has never been able to do. I'm interested to see how Pepsi can make this even better next year and hopefully I'm a part of that process. 

Here are some pictures from the event:

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