Powerade launch to help sports and fitness enthusiasts perform better, says Coca-Cola India VP Parasuraman

After over two decades, Coca-Cola has joined hands with the International Cricket Council (ICC). Vijay Parasuraman, Vice President Marketing, Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia, shares with BusinessLine the strategic intent and talks about the two new TVC campaigns unveiled so far for the ICC World Cup 2019 in England.

Excerpts:

What convinced you that cricket is a good platform to associate with for the next five years?

Cricket is a passion that unites a billion Indians. It often goes beyond the rational, and is one of the things where Indians from all walks of life come together no matter what their differences.

This makes cricket a unique platform because it has countless moments which have the potential to be truly special and which can get etched in our collective consciousness. This ability of cricket, especially the World Cup, to create so many unique, memorable moments makes it a robust platform for us.

Furthermore, our goal is to leverage the Cricket World Cup to get Coca-Cola into every Indian’s heart and the shopping basket. We are looking at making the Cricket World Cup moments special for our consumers with the simple pleasure of drinking a Coca-Cola, which makes it a key bet for us.

What is Coca-Cola’s marketing strategy for ICC World Cup 2019?

We are entering into the category of sports hydration in India with the launch of Powerade, an isotonic sports drink that has been developed with sports scientists. We have roped in Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the face of the brand.

At Coca-Cola, we are excited about the opportunity to make the World Cup experience even more uplifting: Before every match and while the matches are on. So, our first campaign focusses on building a consumption depth around cricket viewing by encouraging fans to stock up to be ‘Match Ready’. After all, any moment of the game could be its best.

Our second campaign addresses what is in the Indian fan’s heart and mind during the World Cup: Our intense desire to see India win. The ‘12th Man’ campaign is built around the simple idea that to be part of the team, you don’t need to be in the team. We believe that the 12th man symbolises Indian fans, their hopes, aspirations, anxieties and what their spirit could be.

Coca-Cola’s World Cup campaigns have featured celebrities who have mass appeal including Ranbir Kapoor, Paresh Rawal and Dhoni. Why are you taking the brand ambassador route?

Brand ambassadors can help us build and enhance brand love especially in creating compelling stories. We believe that these stories essentially shape emotions and if one is able to maintain consistency with these emotions, it drives behavioural and attitudinal change over time.

What are the company’s plans for the Powerade brand in India?

Sports hydration is a growing category in India due to a surge in consumers’ interest in sports, ubiquitous smart wearable technology, establishment of new sports leagues and rise of new age fitness centres.

There is a growing population of sports and fitness enthusiasts in India who are looking for beverages with functional benefits to help them perform better. Therefore, we decided to launch Powerade, an isotonic sports beverage which is another example of expanding our portfolio and providing choice to consumers.

Powerade contains ION4 range — sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium — that helps in replacing the electrolytes lost in sweat. It is the official sports drink of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, owning the athlete training zones and Hydration Break during matches — “Powered by Powerade”.

Could you tell us more about the Coca-Cola’s ‘Twelfth Man’ campaign?

The idea is a simple one, inspired by emotions felt by fans during the World Cup. While we place our hopes on the Indian team’s victory, we also feel that we are outside the boundary who really can’t do much else apart from being an eternal optimist. We all are in some sense the ‘12th Man’. We believe that he symbolises our hopes, aspirations, anxieties and shows us what real team spirit is like. In essence, ‘to be a part of the team, you don’t have to be in the team’.

Tell us about the innovations being done on-ground at the ICC World Cup 2019...

We have created a line of innovations and activations both on-ground and in-ground for consumers. In-ground activations is bar-led with Coke Zero, coolers in stadiums, extensive sampling of beverages, special events and branding for Powerade.

On-ground activations include placement of Coke parasols in prime locations, mid-wicket Coke branding on TV screens, replay and sight- screen presence and prime perimeter branding. Taking forward the company’s ‘World Without Waste’ vision, we have recycling initiatives at stadiums. We have deployed human billboards with a recycling message to create awareness and bring back cans for recycling across fan zones and stadiums.

This article was originally published in The Hindu BusinessLine