The Entertainment Marketing Potential In Indian Cinema


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Bollywood Is a Powerhouse

In 2013, India celebrated 100 years of cinema production. Though it might not be obvious in the west, India is actually producing films at the world-leading rate of over 1,200 per year. Many of these come from the entertainment sect of Mumbai known as Bollywood, although this is not an interchangeable term for any film either produced in India or originating in an Indian language. While many varieties of Indian film maintain their local appeal, Bollywood productions have their growing audiences around the world and in many languages. Thus, did you ever consider the fact that in India, there's tons of entertainment marketing potential?


The Time Has Come For Indian Cinema To Take Advantage Of Sophisticated Brands

Today, the biggest stars of Bollywood and Indian film are racking up endorsement deals and garnering recognition out west as appeal spreads. Most notably, the UK-produced Slumdog Millionaire (2008) marked a turning point for Indian-set film exposure and credibility when it took home a slew of awards (including the Oscar for Best Picture) and won over the American and Canadian box offices.




Thus, the time has come for the Indian cinema to take full advantage of more sophisticated branding opportunities. Movies themselves are not marketed heavily in India; their local and global reach is likely far lower than it could be under American marketing and promotion standards, which means less exposure of any branding that may be included. Sometimes, 3+ hour Bollywood films even include an advertising intermission, which is not likely to make many of today’s viewers dance in their khussas. 

Placements have definitely been a part of Indian cinema productions so far (although integrations are rare) but there is still room for so much more, and the subtlety is still being developed. Brand partnership through clear product placement dates back to 1967 with An Evening in Paris, and has been more recently noticed with the likes of Coca Cola in Taal (1999), Maybelline in Om Shanti Om (2007), and Tag Heuer on the poster for Don 2 (2011). Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (2011) and Ghanchakkar (2013) have each capitalized on multiple American brands, showing what could be possible as the next big extension of cross-cultural entertainment marketing.


What Are The Best Categories for Product Placement?

The categories of Indian films that would provide the best opportunity for product placement and brand integration are action films and Bollywood romantic comedy/musicals. The exemplary model in the action category would be the Dhoom series, of which the third installment garnered the highest revenue of any true Bollywood production thus far. Analogous to a James Bond or Bourne in the states, the Dhoom films feature quick action scenes, oh-so-cool leading men, car chases, gadgets, and special effects galore. These provide a perfect backdrop for either organic placement of a brand or an integration as the hero character’s sidekick (such as a gadget or car.) Dhoom 3 made BMW its hero’s right hand man, and was even recognized with the 2013 BrandCameo award for Placement in a Foreign Film. By extending the natural fit of branding and action into the Indian-based features, brands can penetrate vast new territories due not only to the high production rate, but the fact that Indian films have tremendous global distribution throughout the Middle East, China, And Southeast Asia, bringing to the table true global awareness.

The more stereotypical Bollywood films, referring to those exuding happiness, romance, and music, open up a different sector of branding opportunity. Their lighthearted stories are as catchy as their tunes, and the recurring happy love tale fits the familiar Bollywood schema, so western viewers tend to enjoy the lighthearted content. The songs and dances also tend to garner popularity and shareability on their own (think Bollywood routines on FOX’s So You Think You Can Dance) which only advances the genre’s global exposure. This subcategory tends to appeal more to younger females in addition to the traditional Hindi families, opening up the product placement/integration windows of fashion, cosmetics, and Indian brands looking for US and global exposure. The caveat with these films is that branding, even if it’s supposed to be over the top or “campy,” has to be believable for its setting to be well-received. Since these Bollywood-produced films tend to take place in Greater Mumbai, the US brand placement would be more reasonable in a contemporary plot that includes multiple global settings—or brands already established with a global footprint.

Additionally, Bollywood’s biggest stars could be key candidates for global celebrity endorsements. Freida Pinto most notably became the face of L’Oreal due to the booming success of Slumdog Millionaire, but most Bollywood celebrity endorsements are recognized just within the Indian communities. Actress Kareena Kapoor Khan leads the way in that department, although a vast percentage of Americans would probably never know that. Even though her brand endorsements include a number of Indian companies as well as Sony, this total can be dwarfed by the amount of endorsements many US celebrities can accrue. As brands expand their marketing presence targeting global territories, product placement and celebrity endorsement partnerships with Bollywood productions should be considered within the entertainment marketing matrix.

Entertainment Marketing Is Limitless

India isn't the only country with limitless potential. The Chinese entertainment market is already established as the second largest in the world, and soon expected to be the largest of all, the opportunities for US content producers are enormous.

Let us know what you think the near future holds for Bollywood and other Indian cinema as platforms for brands pursuing consumer engagement through marketing in the comment section below!

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