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AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal
Watching over everyone.
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Patanjali is sponsoring wrestling events and Hindi news to bolster its “Made in India” credentials

By Suneera Tandon

Ramdev is no wrestling ace.

Yet, on Jan. 18, the yoga guru and promoter of Patanjali bested Olympic silver medalist Andriy Stadnik. The 51- year-old was seen taking on the professional wrestler in a friendly match in Delhi during season two of the Pro Wrestling League, an annual local championship now sponsored by the Ayurveda behemoth.

This is Ramdev’s latest move in his quest to build brand Patanjali after disrupting India’s $49-billion fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market with the “healthier” versions of almost all products available, from ghee and noodles to herbal soap and shampoo. With a growing media budget, Patanjali is investing big on advertisements and sponsorship to ensure that the Indian shopper never forgets it.

Taking over TV

Over the last two years, Patanjali’s presence on Indian television screens has exploded.

Beyond commercials featuring Ramdev, the company, whose media planning is handled by Vermillion Communication and Combined Media, has become an active media buyer, sponsoring serials, news bulletins and sporting events that attract big viewership.

For instance, Patanjali’s Kesh Kanti shampoo is the presenting sponsor for television channel Star Plus’s show Prisoner of War and &TV’s Waaris, while milk-mix Powervita is the presenting sponsor for Sony’s dance reality show Super Dancer.

For TV channels, selling sponsorship is key to earning revenue, but for brands like Patanjali, it’s an expense that can pay off big time.

In 2016, Patanjali Special Chyawanprash bagged the co-presenting rights for the Kabbadi World Cup held in Ahmedabad. Tracing its roots to Tamil Nadu, Kabbaddi, along with wrestling, another popular Indian sport, allows Patanjali to enhance its image as a truly indigenous brand, which media experts view as smart planning.

“With these sporting properties, they’ve hit a sweet-spot, because these are more traditional and Indian sports they have associated themselves with,” said T Gangadhar, managing director at media planning agency MEC India. “One cannot imagine Patanjali associating with something more contemporary such as tennis.”

And this idea is echoed in its news sponsorship strategy, too. Patanjali’s brands feature regularly on Hindi news channels, such as ABP and India News.

The extent of its advertising might becomes evident from the sales surge over the past three years, from Rs446 crore in 2011-12 to Rs5,000 crore in 2015-16. Its marketing budget, too, has swelled.

In 2015, Patanjali is reported to have allocated Rs360 crore to advertising, beating the ad spends of other big players such as Emami, Godrej Consumer Products, and even Nestle. In 2016, it remained one of the top ad spenders on TV, dominating Indian small screens, ad data measurement agency BARC says.