Leveraging cricket to score boundaries the PharmEasy way

Saumil Parekh

Making its debut on the World Cup pitch last year, PharmEasy has let the essence of cricket seep right through the core of its marketing and branding strategy. We dig in to understand the process.

Super Bowl is a grand event in the world of sports as well as advertising. It is when the best of both worlds merge, delighting audiences globally. In India, cricket can be considered a parallel to that madness. While one can expect fun and frolic to be the mood, would an e-pharmacy find its way through the clutter? Turns out, cricket is pretty inclusive, PharmEasy shares how.

It began its journey by buying ad spots during the World Cup last year. The journey that began in June-July 2019 for PharmEasy led them to be the Associate Broadcast Sponsor for multiple leagues in the last eight months. This year, they plan to go big during the ICC T20 Women’s World Cup. Saumil Parekh, Vice President – Marketing, PharmEasy candidly shares with us insights on the journey so far. 

PharmEasy has associated with cricket time and again. Given your recent experience with the sport, how would you describe it from a brand marketing perspective?

We were always skeptical about cricket because it is a very expensive property. Would this give us the ROI we are expecting in terms of growth that we want? A lot of analysis had to be done before we could experiment with the World Cup last year. It was an event that would only come once in four years and if we were to be successful, it would help leverage other bilateral tournaments that would follow. With this intention, we decided it was time to invest in cricket. So, we got ad spots and became on-air partners as well as partnered with various affiliate websites to drive conversions. We also did a lot of programmatic advertising work with Hotstar. 

What kind of a result did you witness? 

Before we invested in the World Cup, we were just a fairly upcoming brand. A lot of people didn’t know about PharmEasy. Our brand track score in terms of awareness was about 16-17%. However, over time with the help of the brand recall generated with the help of cricketing leagues, our brand track scored have improved to almost 37%. In terms of numbers as well, we have been consistently growing. Some of the months are even showing a 30% hike in terms of revenue. During the months when we were actively investing in cricket, we had seen a jump of almost 50%. 

After the ad spots during the World Cup, we tried direct associations. PharmEasy was the Associate Broadcast Sponsor for the India Tour of West Indies in August, the West Indies Tour of India in December and the India-Sri Lanka, India-Australia and India-New Zealand T20 series in January.

What are the points to keep in mind before cementing a partnership with a sport as massive as cricket? 

The teams that are playing matter and so do the players. If say India and Australia were playing, people are likely to watch. Same goes for a player like Virat Kohli. Timing is also very important. There are matches that are happening at the end of the day, after 4pm, that is when we see a spike in orders as well. This is why we don’t really prefer matches that are happening early in the morning, even though the rates are comparatively very cheap. The whole point is to know when we can get the maximum reach for our message. A lot depends on how a match turns out and a large part of our planning goes into predicting how a particular series would perform. 

Cricket sponsorships and associations have an image of being an advertising option to big-ticket brands due to the advertising cost. With PharmEasy associating with the sport, can we say that sports marketing is a viable option for startups? 

I think since we have been consistently investing in cricket in the last six to eight months, a lot of people have started associating PharmEasy with cricket. It is a good thing because the association with cricket has helped increase the trust level for the brand. Cricket is watched by a lot of people and when you put your ads during a World Cup or the IPL, there is a lot of trust that gets built for the brand because people subconsciously know that the brand has a lot of weight or money to invest in such kinds of tournament. That is not just a random exercise. For us, trust building is extremely important as we are in the business of selling medicines. People now consider PharmEasy as one of the best players in the e-pharmacy market instead of just another player. The trust we have gained via cricket is intangible, something I cannot measure but is very obvious since we started investing in cricket. Even if we are not investing directly, we try to leverage cricket with the help of social media activities and digital content.

With cricket being consumed across the length and breadth of the country, what kind of subsidiary marketing initiatives were undertaken to make the most out of the cricket association? 

It has to be both because direct association will give you brand awareness and digital associations and partnerships will drive conversions for you. If you are looking only in terms of awareness, direct association matters a lot. However, if you are also looking at number of installs, registrations, orders and acquisitions, digital associations matter a lot. Here, the focus is on conversions — how to turn a brand aware person into a brand consumer. As a business, we have been focusing on business growth as well as brand awareness and so, a mix of both works well. 

Lastly, any sports marketing trends you foresee shaping 2020

If you are looking purely in terms of India as a market, I think nothing beats cricket. With Star investing a lot in making cricket a big property, not just for 2020 but for the next few years, cricket will be big. However, given how expensive it is, the choice to leverage cricket should be made smartly and the decisions must be data-driven. All the factors should be considered, including the ones you can control and the ones you can’t. It is a high risk high return phenomenon, especially for brands like us that don’t have a direct association with cricket. For someone like Dream11, it makes a lot of sense to invest in cricket. For us, it is an option that needs to be picked smartly.