It is difficult to forget Kapil Dev’s beaming, mustachioed face jumping out at you from the Boost ads of the 1980s. Kapil Dev, an inimitable Indian paragon of the time, was the ideal personality with whom to entrust the task of inspiring an entire generation of Indian children. He was synonymous with skill, talent, spirit, and glory. In Kapil Dev, GlaxoSmithKline saw a potent and strategic brand fit with its brown powder health food drink (HFD), Boost, which is now one of the major players in the INR 1,400 crore HFD market. Although more popular in the southern part of the country, Boost is a formidable player with 13% market share.
Kapil Dev during a Boost photo shoot at Rajpath; Photo Credit: Rajeev Tandon
Kapil Dev’s iconic status and position as India’s cricketing hero was a fitting match with both the product category and Brand Boost’s proposition of energy for active children. The tagline “Boost is the secret of my energy” stuck in the Indian psyche and has been a vital part of the high brand recall that Boost enjoys even today. Back in 1986, Boost was the first HFD brand to adopt celebrity endorsement as the mainstay of its marketing communications strategy. It also promoted its association with the sport of cricket, in order to capture the zeitgeist of the nation. Since Kapil Dev, Boost has appointed other sports superstars who have assumed the mantle of Boost Brand Ambassador. Most notable, of course, was Sachin Tendulkar, who took over from Kapil Dev and became the face of Boost in what was perhaps one of the longest brand-celebrity associations in Indian contemporary history. Over the years, Boost has stuck to its celebrity endorsement and cricket strategy, although it has tried to downplay the idolized, demi-god sports celebrity so as not to alienate children. This slight shift in positioning was facilitated by a unique consumer insight – children perceived Sachin to be extraordinary, and so were becoming distant from the brand.
What I found interesting about the “handover” from Kapil Dev to a barely legal Sachin was its physical representation in Boost ads. Many brands choose ambassadors as their public face – a practice exemplified by cosmetics and their successive associations with models and actresses. However, there is never any overt reference to or even attempt at continuity. This “meta-endorsement” by Boost was a nifty little touch to maintain and ensure credibility in the minds of mothers and more importantly, children.
In recent years, Boost has roped in Sehwag and Dhoni, and is now the official energy drink of the Rajasthan Royals. With the evolution of promotions have come significant improvements to the product – aesthetic and functional innovations in packaging, such as shrink-sleeves and plastic bottles with appealing graphics have developed a more sleek, stylish look for Boost. In 2002 Boost introduced yellow granules in its “Power Booster” formulation, and more recently in 2005, Boost launched its ChocoBlast variant with “Advanced Energy Boosters”. In the end however, it’s those Boost barfis that have piqued my curiosity!
Mansha graduated with a degree in Economics and French and worked in client service at BBDO Sydney’s PR and Digital & Direct agencies. Her projects include image management and experiential events for Starbucks, Etihad Airways’ launch in Australia, and BTL activity for pharma majors Novartis and AstraZeneca. She subsists on cult and arthouse cinema, indie music, and postmodern fiction.
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