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The reward behind an award

You can build two brands with one award: one is the award property, the other the presenting brand sponsor. How exactly are award managers hitting bulls-eye? Rather, bulls' eyes.

, ET Bureau|
Sep 10, 2008, 05.59 AM IST
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Acceptance speeches are the easiest part of any awards night. For painful though some of them may well be from the audience's perspective, the behind the-scenes story of what goes into making awards worth their 'wait in gold' is one of hard toil. After all, even global awards like the Cannes Lions, or the Oscars did not achieve, their fame over one fine evening.

When it came into being, the Cannes Lions, now the gold standard in global advertising, was nothing but a vignette to the larger Cannes Film Festival. Started a few years after the Cannes Film Festival, it was initially meant to reward only feature film advertising.

Naturally, Cannes Lions had a limited following with only 200 delegates attending the first edition. Five decades later, 10,000 delegates came for this year's Cannes Lions. To increase its popularity in each country without running a huge publicity bill, Cannes ropes in leading media houses in each country as its official partner. "If we had to talk about the awards in various markets it would be a very difficult task. So we choose to partner with media houses that help spread the word," explains Philip Thomas, CEO, Cannes Advertising Festival.

That might be a global view. But how does the work behind those glittering ceremonies work in India? The list of awards being instituted in the country are not just a mile-long, they are also growing. In the past, it was mainly media houses who created awards properties to recognise achievers in their sphere of publishing. So, film magazines honoured the film industry, business newspapers toasted business excellence and so on.

Now, everyone is chasing awards. And we are not talking about the aspirants who are eager to get their hands on the cold metal. From event management companies to consulting outfits and even consumer goods companies, the battle is to create an award that lasts forever. Are there rules to this game?

Staying power can attract some amount of pedigree. But that's no guarantee against warding off competition. After all, you need to not just polish your act every year, but also constantly take a hard look and redefine, when necessary.

Take the case of Filmfare, the awards for honouring achievers from the Hindi film industry. In its 56-years of existence, Filmfare has seen competition from several quarters like the Screen Awards, Stardust Awards, Zee Cine Awards and the IIFA awards, the last being promoted by event management company Wizcraft.

While Filmfare covered more than adequate ground in India, with the Hindi film industry showing up in strength at the annual awards shows in Bollywood's capital, Mumbai, later-entrant, IIFA, decided to catch a flight to international locales.

Though, IIFA was set up 10 years back to spread the concept of Indian cinema across the world, by signing treaties with distributors in different countries, awards were a key part of the strategy to get viewers, mainly from the Indian diaspora, hooked. To differentiate itself from other awards that honoured Hindi cinema, IIFA decided to have its awards function every year in a different country.

But why would a sponsor come on board, particularly if they were brands that did not address the international market that IIFA targets? Idea, the cellular phone services company, that's been sponsoring IIFA for three years, seems to have some answers. For Idea, finding a medium to cut the clutter, particularly when larger competitors like Vodafone, Airtel or Reliance were outspending them, was the predominant task. Pradeep Shrivastava, CMO, Idea Cellular says, "Cricket, and Bollywood are religions in India and create engagement across the spectrum. IIFA has a mass appeal plus a lot of movie content being downloaded using mobile phones."

If IIFA was chasing numbers, Filmfare chose to reposition itself a notch higher a couple of years back. From the past, where size defined everything, Filmfare chose to make its awards show a Black Tie event. Anupama Bhalla, general manager - marketing, Worldwide Media (a joint venture between the Times Group and BBC Worldwide) says, "Filmfare awards has a rich heritage attached to it. The comparison has always been with the Oscars and event coverage has moved beyond just wins to what was worn by the stars for the event, which is similar to the 'red carpet' of the Oscars. The shift in positioning of the awards is reflective of that."

But the battle is not just restricted to that one on-ground event. After all, sponsors pay to be seen during the telecast. "The IIFA awards is broadcast across 120 countries and is viewed by 600 million people," claims Sabbas Joseph, director, IIFA. "Sponsors will align themselves only if there is an assurance of getting good TRPs," agrees Bhalla. For Filmfare, the exclusivity tag helped boost TRPs and the Filmfare Awards telecast on Sony Entertainment Television last year had a TRP of 4. Bhalla says that even for its repeat telecast, new sponsors came on board. IIFA says it got a TRP of 6.18 for its telecast on Star Plus last year.

Not everyone is looking at TRPs, though. When consumer goods major Marico chose to make a corporate statement out of innovation, primarily as a talent attraction exercise, the message had to go beyond advertising campaigns. So the Marico Innovation Foundation partnered with a consulting outfit, Erehwon Consulting to set up the Marico Innovation Awards. "The purpose of the award is to identify innovators, recognise them and share their best practices with a larger audience, thus enabling learning," says a spokesperson from the Foundation.

Every year, the Foundation contacts 5,000 companies and social organisations to invite entries to the award. It also interacts with institutes like the IIMs and industry body CII to spread awareness from the innovation research findings. An innovation course designed by Erehwon is also included in the curriculum of about a dozen business schools to encourage B-school graduates to take up live business challenges and try solving it. Marico claims that the awards are a part of the company's CSR initiatives.

For sponsors of award shows, however, it's not all about CSR. Sometimes, it's all about ensuring the right fit. If business award shows were all about men in suits toasting their achievements outside their boardrooms, a suit maker could not be far behind. So even as The Economic Times award for Corporate Excellence has been in existence for a decade, Raymond has been associated with the awards since 2001. Gautam Hari Singhania, chairman and MD, Raymond says, "Raymond feels proud to be associated with such an award, which in all aspects of business activities and social consciousness is the keystone for success and an inspiration for upcoming entrepreneurs." Rahul Kansal, CMO, BCCL adds, "To increase the credibility of the award, a partner brand has to be picked with a lot of care. The corporate values that ET and Raymond share are same."

Sometimes, a strong award property could also undergo a dilution of identity, simply because the company that owns the award decided to extend the scope of the exercise. In many parts of India, bravery and Red & White were hand-in-hand. But when the company that owns the Red & White cigarette brand, Godfrey Phillips India, decided to increase the scope of the awards, beyond existing geographies and even beyond awards, a name change was imminent. With the scope of the awards going beyond acts of physical bravery to include social bravery and social lifetime achievements and other categories, the awards are now called Godfrey Philips Bravery Awards.

Harmanjit Singh, general secretary, Godfrey Phillips Bravery awards however denies that the name change was prompted by changes in legislation. He says, "In the 1990s when the award was started, there was no need for surrogate advertising, as advertising of tobacco was permitted. Also, we rebranded the property as Godfrey Phillips long before the legislation came into existence."

There are other categories where it's virtually raining awards. The automobile industry is a case in point. Apart from individual industry magazines having their own product of the year awards, they also have a collective Indian Car Of The Year (ICOTY) award. To increase credibility, auto magazines like Overdrive have tied up with industry bodies - SIAM, ACMA and CII- and even include these members in the jury. That need not mean it could race ahead of the rest.

The awards show has just begun.
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