Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Campaign Trail :Is Birla Sunlife Exploiting Yuvraj ?

A small controversy is brewing in the ad world regarding the latest campaign of Birla Sunlife featuring India's youth icon Yuvraj Singh. Yuvi was endorsing the Birla Sunlife brand for some time now. The campaign runs on the theme of highs and lows of the life and how one should prepare for such events. The last campaign was aired when Yuvi was in a bad patch and was kept out of the team because of poor form. The ad really struck a chord because here was one famous cricketer who was criticized by all for his poor form. The series of ads featured cricketers like Sewag who also faced similar performance issues.

Watch the ad here : Yuvraj Birla old ad

This time around, things were different. Yuvraj was diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment in US. There is a huge wave of sympathy, prayers and sadness among the millions of cricket lovers for this flamboyant young cricketer. 
Surprisingly the ruthless marketer in Birla Sunlife Insurance began to flood the channels with the followup campaign featuring  Yuvraj. The new campaign is in the same line of the older version but very striking and all the more disturbing. 
 Watch the new ad here : Birla sunlife new ad

My initial response was surprise and disgust. How can a brand run a campaign like that when he is sick and undergoing treatment ? - this was the question that came to my mind .My conclusion was that Birla Sunlife is exploiting a very sad situation to its advantage. 

Now ET and Business Standard newspapers have reported that the entire campaign is done with the concurrence and support of Yuvi and even Yuvi wanted to change some dialogues to reflect the current state.

Here the question is whether Birla Sunlife has done the right marketing move to run such a hard-hitting campaign when the entire cricket loving Indians are praying for this cricketer's health.

My take is that Birla Sunlife has messed up the entire campaign so much so that consumers began to question the intention of the brand in running this campaign at this point in time. 

It is true that many brands have used celebrities for their campaigns when these celebrities were recovering from such serious health issues. Celebrities like  Lance Armstrong  and Lisa Ray were featured in brand campaigns when they were recovering from such serious health issues.
The recent controversy has occurred because of the following reasons :
1. Many viewers including myself thought that Birla Sunlife has tried to gain advantage of this current situation by re-running the old ad. I was not aware of the fact that it was done with the active support of  Yuvraj Singh. This is a glaring error in term of the execution of the campaign because the agency or the client didnot thought of such a perception. The campaign managers should have given lot of indications that this ads were released with the active support of the celebrity.
2.The timing of the ad could not have been worse. The brand could have waited for some time before jumping into releasing the campaign. This ad would have been a huge hit had the release coincided with Yuvraj's complete recovery.  
3. The brand bombarded the channels with high frequency which gave the impression that it was trying to make maximum mileage of the entire episode.
4. Even if the celebrity would be supporting such a campaign, the brand should have resisted the temptation to take advantage of the situation. The ultimate aim of this campaign is to build the brand and that reason make the timing of the campaign a very bad choice.

What ever be the rational decision of the brand to run this campaign, common sense would vote against such a high frequency campaign. The entire campaign theme is highly negative and that negativity messed up the ad campaign for the brand. Unlike the ads featuring Lance Armstrong or Lisa Ray which was positive, this Birla sunlife ad was much like  " I told You So " kind of stuff. 

The " intention " of the brand is a very powerful factor that influence the customer. Here the brand failed to convey its good intentions . Otherwise this could have been one of the most remarkable campaigns in the category.. Alas.....


  1. so true..! the fact that he is undergoing cancer treatment itself is sad... and along with that this ad is popping up in all the channells in higher numbers like the brand wants to exploit his sad state...

    its pathetic..!

  2. I was wondering if they had changed the copy of the ad to reflect something on the lines of "the fight against cancer", would the backlash be the same?

  3. very rightly said sir.. this is indeed misfortune that a brand is trying to exploit the whole situation to its benefit.

  4. Dear Sir,

    I respect and endorse your views on this and really believe that the company totally mistimed the campaign and it would have been a thorough hit had it been aired after Yuvraj started recovering from the situation and not now, as it is looking like a campaign that is trying to gain from one person's sorrows and bad condition.

    Hope the marketers start endorsing the views of Marketing 3.0 the spiritual approach to marketing and start making................ valuable ads.........

  5. Ankur9:50 PM

    I do not think there is anything wrong with the campaign, just reiterates the fact the risk with not being insured. The timing coincides with the bad patch of Indian cricket team which depicts "helplessness" of the cricketer, which resonates even better that "Shit Happens" and be insured for it

  6. I could not agree more!
    @ Piyush: I share your point of view, unfortunately that's what what they always do!

  7. birla sun life not paid death claim.


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