Vodafone plans ambush marketing during IPL to upstage Reliance Jio

Vodafone India, the country's second-biggest phone company, is set to launch an ambush marketing campaign in a bid to upstage Reliance Jio Infocomm during the two-month-long Indian Premier League cricket tournament that starts Saturday, said people with knowledge of the matter.

The move comes as the mobile phone operator, which is merging with Idea Cellular, battles rivals Jio and Bharti Airtel for data revenue and subscribers. Jio is a co-presenting sponsor for all eight teams playing in the tournament.

After 10 years of being an associate sponsor, Vodafone is just a spot buyer this year. Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Jio did not respond to ET’s queries.

With an investment of ₹20-25 crore— modest in comparison with Jio's ₹90-100 crore spending—the ‘guerilla’ technique will be needed to get attention from an expected 700 million viewers, said the people cited above, up from 450 million last year. The company is said to have modelled its plan on Pepsi’s ‘Nothing official about it’ campaign during the 1996 World Cup that was aimed at undercutting tournament sponsor Coca-Cola.

Vodafone is expected to rollout its advertising campaigns along with game shows and consumer engagement programmes across cities from Saturday. Sources said Idea Cellular will launch competitive offers as well. Vodafone India and Idea Cellular are in the midst of a merger exercise that’s expected to conclude in a few months and result in India’s biggest phone company, overtaking Bharti Airtel. Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Jio did not respond to ET’s queries.

This will be the second instance of ambush marketing that will likely take place in this season’s IPL.