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United Breweries Holdings Limited (UBHL) beverage brand Kingfisher also known as the ‘brand of good times’, is popular within the sports sponsorship realm in India.

The Drum spoke with Samar Singh Sheikhawat, chief marketing officer at UBHL to find out about the brand’s marketing strategy in India.

He says: "The brand’s tonality in India is always in line with unpretentious inclusive fun and has become an iconic symbol of a young and modern India.

"Kingfisher has been a dominant brand in the country with worldwide recognition. It has remained relevant and fresh to the country’s new young demographic that has a wider variety now. Our activation platforms of sports, music, food and fashion have been on overdrive to keep up with growing pace of competition."

As Indian Premier League (IPL) kick starts, it provides massive opportunity for the brands to showcase themselves in front of a million audience which watches cricket in India. Previously, Royal Challenger Bangalore's principal partner, Kingfisher will continue its association with IPL in a big way.

As to how IPL association helps the brand, Sheikhawat says: "The IPL is the single largest sporting event in India, much bigger than global sporting events like the FIFA World Cup, Olympics etc. Since its inception we have been associated with the property, IPL has the right mix of sports, glamour, fashion and entertainment, and this fits on perfectly with the brands vibe."

Shiekhawat further explains Kingfisher's IPL property for more than 11 years as sponsors for the teams, and about coming up with the trendsetting line 'Divided By Teams, United By Kingfisher', which set a trend for itself.

Sponsorship activations in recent years have evolved massively as the competition has become intense. Brands are utilising every channel to market their product.

As to what will set Kingfisher apart, Shiekhawat says: "IPL has enabled activating the brand during peak season and provide consumer experiences that money can’t buy through contests and engagements. Imagine drinking a cold beer and winning the chance to meet and greet Virat Kholi or Chris Gayle; that is definitely an experience that money can’t buy. As a result of this the brand has sometimes received higher rating and brand recall than the title sponsor. We may only sponsor the Royal Challengers Bangalore but consumers sometimes think we own the team."

Internet viral trends integrated with marketing campaigns often make for a good strategy, especially when promoting India's own version of 'Superbowl' - the IPL. Kingfisher employed its own version of internet viral sensation Mannequin Challenge , the #KingfisherMannequinChallenge, and engaged all the IPL teams.

Sheikhawat enlightens us with its 2018 plan: "Every year we have a bulk of our brand activations being initiated during the IPL season, we have a lot lined up this year in terms of digital and on ground activities. This year we will be on IPL live across all channels and Hotstar. We also have a large regional plan across non-Star networks. 

"This year we have associated with six teams in terms of sponsorship. The balance will go in terms of surround plan that we have around IPL including non-Star bouquet and regional channels. Our IPL film (shot with players) will run across all channels. Like #MannequinChallenge, we hope to execute something more engaging than last year, bring engagement and our digital campaigns to a whole new level.

"Every year we have provided our consumers with amazing experiences, we gave fans a chance to bowl their favourite cricketer out at the Kingfisher Bowl Out events. We saw Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli take up the turn tables for their fans at the Kingfisher IPL after parties, such activations are part of our core focus during the IPL and we will continue to execute similar experiences on a larger scale for the years to come."

Apart from cricket, Kingfisher also is an official partner of Formula One team Sahara Force India. On whether it has plans to expand in other sports, Sheikhawat says: "Kingfisher is a sponsor to many sporting teams across various sports. Our most recent association was with the ISL (Indian Super League), Kingfisher acquired sponsorship rights for two of the finest teams in the tournament, FC Goa and Bengaluru FC.

"Kingfisher has always been associated with some of the finest sporting events in the country. Kingfisher hosts the most glamorous thoroughbred horse race in country: The Kingfisher Ultra Derby in Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune. The Kingfisher Ultra Indian Derby is an amalgamation of music and fashion, infused with a dash of adrenaline.

"Apart from this Kingfisher is also associated with other major racing events like the P1 Power boat Indian Grand Prix racing where Kingfisher Ultra is the naming sponsor for the team Ultra Sharks. We look to continue to hold this space in the sports community and expand on all available opportunities."