Extending their relationship for three years, Tennis Australia and Sony Pictures Networks India announced that viewers would continue to enjoy Australian Open on the Sony Sports cluster and their OTT platform, Sony LIV. SPNI will provide over 200 hours of coverage for each edition of the Australian Open.
Leander Paes, India’s tennis pride shared his tennis journey and passion about the sport and the association he shares with Australian Open at the media launch.
On the sidelines of the launch, Medianews4u caught up with Neville Bastawalla, Head – Marketing & OAP, Sony Sports Cluster, SPNI for a brief chat on Australian open and other things.
From launching ICC Cricket World Cup and ExtraaInnings in 2003 to Australian Open 2020 How has the Sony Sports cluster been performing?
Our sports cluster is on a growth trajectory, especially since the last year we have embarked on the mission of growing sports viewership in the country. Our three key verticals include UEFA Champions League we are home to the latest and the best football in the country with 700 days of football in India. Serie A the Italian football league has got the highest reach in the country. UEFA Champions League grew from last year by 50%.
Our campaign for UEFA Champions league was called ‘’Sona Maana Hai’’, creating the fear of missing out the greatest football legends and the matches, which is going to catapult and build relevance to UEFA Champions League in India.
Similarly with UFC, we had Varun Dhawan on board to grow UFC in India with “as real as it gets” in positioning UFC in India. We had done a lot of activities with Varun Dhawan to promote UFC on social media. He was a cultural accelerator for UFC. We keep on identifying certain cultural accelerators that will help accelerate niche sports and get marginal viewers.
Our game plan is clearly massify and grow. Programming of sports is also critical. We are also looking at how can we program our studio shows, shoulder programming to get the marginal viewers on board. 177 million viewers were watching FIFA cumulatively in Russia on Sony, how can I get 10% of them to watch it on our network week-on-week, so that’s the focus on growth we have embarked upon.
How do we grow non-India cricket? We have got 200 days of cricket coming up. We got Vijay Raaz on board for Hindi communication, which said, “if you have watched India Vs Pakistan rivalry then this is much more interesting than that, Australia and England’s rivalry is a 130 year old”, the whole story was done extremely beautifully for the masses. We also did a rap song around Ashes to build relevance to it.
Did Sony Sports see the potential of other sports after it lost the broadcast rights to IPL??
Indian cricket will continue to be what it always has been. Sony has been home to IPL for the longest time and we have actually co-built IPL along with its other stakeholders.
Generic mass sports will be the focus as we progress and as and when the rights open up we will try to get them too. We would any way have done all of this even if India cricket would have been with us. There is a large appetite for other sports too in India, it’s just how do you package it and present it to the viewer which is important.
You have been Head of Marketing as well as On-Air Promotions; this is an interesting structure how effective is it?
I think it’s a great structure, why should On-Air Promotions not be linked to marketing? It’s on air communication with the on air inventory if you put a value to it, lands up in a couple of crores, so why should a marketing team only look at creating a promo campaign with an external agency? And then spending X amount of money buying media outside it. I feel everything should be synergised. The structure is good as it gives the marketing team a complete flex looking at it in a holistic way, even digital, PR everything is together at the Sony Sports cluster.
What is the key target market for the Australian Open? Any consumption trends that you may have mapped?
Australian Open is for pan India led by the metros. Australian Open grew from 29% broadly to 41% in terms of reach from 2018 January to 2019 January. This year the focus is on more number of masses, how exponentially can we grow in the coming January Australian Open Series. We will have Indian specific shoulder programming as said by the Australian Open Team, building relevance and globalisation will continue to be the key for Australian Open also.
How are you promoting Australian Open? Any specific plans?
We will start working on that, you might have seen our campaign for Olympics on “Hum Honge Kaamyaab”, one year in advance we start the jingoism as we want to bring the confidence in our players. We launched our entire campaign to Cheer for India, we are going to do a lot more going forward, creating series from January onwards to localise programming, going and discussing this with the current athletes, their coaches knowing their perspective. We will be creating a lot of content before the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
How are you synchronizing Sony LIV for Australian Open to boost viewership?
Complete synchronisation. It will be a completely consolidated marketing plan. It will be on TV, and Sony LIV.
What apart from Australian Open is expected on the Sony Sports Cluster?
Euro 2020 is massive; WWE which is again a big thing, and you’ll hear something happening soon in November, very soon.