Q] Recently, Mastercard announced its support for women in sports through its major sponsorship deals in cricket and football. Please share some thoughts behind this decision.
It’s not just women-led sports, Mastercard has been a huge supporter of women’s diversity across the world, both as an employer and in the work that we do. We are committed to showcasing women in all aspects, be it directly through finance and payments, or sports. The latter is an area where historically and worldwide, there’s a big gap in viewership between men’s and women’s sports. Although, it is narrowing now, the gap still exists. It’s also a very visible form of human activity. At the end of the day, we are a payments technology brand, and to bring ourselves in front of people, we have to participate in their areas of interest, or what we call in Mastercard, their ‘passion point.’ In India, Cricket is probably a national religion, hence we tied up with BCCI in August last year for all matches held in India from September till March of 2023. This was a comprehensive deal, including senior men’s and women’s, and under 19 men’s and women’s categories. We also got sponsorship of the women’s cricket matches, which was icing on the cake.
We were in talks with BCCI, and they said that one of their great goals is to encourage the participation of women in sports, and showed interest in a joint campaign. That is how this idea took shape. It is what we do globally, and it was great that we got the opportunity to do it in India as well.
Q] Can you share some insights and the objective behind the recently launched #HalkeMeinMattLo campaign?
Our objective was to ensure that more people watch women’s cricket, both at the stadium, and as well as on TV, or on any Digital platform. In a country like ours, unfortunately, women face challenges that men don’t. But then if the objective is to get people to watch, that is not going to happen if it’s simply a sympathy story. When we started looking at the stories of some of these cricketers, we found out that they had difficult upbringings, they had to face patriarchy, and break down societal barriers. But the cricket they play is simply stunning. It’s no less than the men’s game, and the training and the effort that went into it to get them to that level is no less either. That’s why we decided that instead of evoking sympathy, why not say that they are no different from the men? Therefore, Inko Halke Mein Matt lo, as in ‘Don’t take them lightly.’
It resonated very well with audiences, and the proof lies in the fact that during the second match of the series that India won, the 55,000-seater capacity DY Patil Stadium was sold out.
Q] What are the marketing strategies that you have used for the promotion of the campaign to increase its engagement with viewers across the board?
Owing to the consumers’ growing inclination towards Digital, we relied heavily on Digital media for our #HalkeMeinMattLo campaign, and received tremendous response from different audiences. This was perhaps the first time that BCCI posted all three videos of a brand campaign. The players too posted their videos with a combined reach of 1.5 million across social media platforms. The videos were viewed more than 8 million times, and reached out to a cumulative audience of over 53 million.
In line with our multi-sensory marketing strategy, we leveraged outdoor advertising and set up 50 hoardings and bus shelters around the match venues in Mumbai. We also leveraged radio contests and garnered more than 10,000 entries. This way, we were able to reach out to many micro-influencers who shared the campaign with the larger audience.
Q] Have the marketing dynamics changed in today’s data-driven Digital era?
The answer to your question is yes and no. Has technology disrupted marketing? Absolutely. Whether it was the rise of social media, or now the latest ChatGPT, which will probably put a lot of people’s jobs in jeopardy, technology has certainly disrupted our lives. It has its benefits, and we saw some of it during the pandemic, where you could make virtual connections. Data obviously allows you to target better, but it has to be used responsibly, which is something that we take great pride in doing here at Mastercard.
Marketing is essentially about human-to-human marketing, and this is something our global CMO Raja often says. It is something that will stand the test of any technology, and one of the things that the pandemic taught us is the importance of human connections.
Q] Do you think women’s cricket in India can garner support and sponsorship at par with men’s cricket? How do you see that being achieved in the coming years?
It’s a journey, and as with all journeys, it’s probably not going to happen with a single step. But the point of inflexion for women’s sports has come, and it’s a virtuous cycle because any brand will invest in something that’s big with the audience. It’s also a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg,’ because unless you invest, where’s the viewership going to come from, and vice versa. Having said that, I think now there’s enough interest in women’s sports across the gamut for people to start watching. Even as the stadium was full, we got viewership of millions on Hotstar, which has never happened before. A tipping point has been reached where women’s sport is only going to grow in popularity hereon. When will it reach parity with the men’s game is anybody’s guess, but the way I see things going, I think it is sooner rather than later.
Manasi Narasimhan is tasked with building and driving the equity of the Mastercard brand across six countries. She joined Mastercard in October 2017, and is responsible for all advertising, promotions, co-marketing campaigns, and all communication both internal (employees) as well as external (all media relations).
ABOUT THE BRAND
Mastercard is a global technology company in the payments industry. The company’s mission is to connect and power an inclusive digital economy that benefits everyone, everywhere by making transactions safe, simple, smart, and accessible
Media agency: Carat India
Creative Agency: McCann (global and in India)
Digital Agency: Organic by MSL
PR Agency: MSL