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BYJU'S Atit Mehta on the Messi and FIFA World Cup sponsorship

Catching up with BYJU’s head of marketing Atit Mehta who’s in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup. He talks about the sponsorship and brand excitement on ground.

By  Shibani GharatNov 26, 2022 2:25 PM
BYJU'S Atit Mehta on the Messi and FIFA World Cup sponsorship
"The primary reason for us to sign up with FIFA was markets outside India. We have operations and businesses growing in LATAM specially Mexico, Argentina and some of the other countries in LATAM. Messi is the biggest icon ever seen by LATAM outside Maradona and Pele. The reason for us signing in Messi was to put the brand at the forefront specially in LATAM. We signed him at the start of the financial year in March and April while we announced it right now." Said Atit Mehta, head of marketing - Byju's (Image source - Twitter @LSPNFC_)

The FIFA world cup 2022 kicked off last weekend and many of us football fans have exciting weeks of football lined up for us. This time, there is also an Indian brand as one of the sponsors of FIFA World Cup Qatar. BYJU’s is making its presence felt on ground not just in Doha but many of its markets outside and in India, of course. Storyboard 18 caught up with Atit Mehta, Head of Marketing at Think and Learn Pvt. Ltd (Byju's - The learning App) who was speaking to us from Doha, about their World Cup association, roping in Lionel Messi - one of the world’s highest paid footballers, then facing a backlash for signing him soon after laying off 2,500 employees.

Edited excerpts.

How is it in Doha? What does it feel like watching the World Cup live?

It is a carnival type of feeling. The entire city is lit up. One should drive around post sunset and you will feel like every part of the city is lit up, every part of the city has the excitement for FIFA World Cup. The only thing is that the stadiums are too far off, so one needs to plan properly in terms of the time taken to reach the stadium. But once you go over there all the effort that one has taken in minimized and it’s a feeling money can’t buy.

How is the feeling being the first Indian Brand at the FIFA World Cup and to see the logo on ground?

I remember the first match that I attended, I was not watching the match only looking out where the brand logo is, recording every piece of it, recording from every angle. So as marketers and as business people you will always look out for your brand. A lot people have reached out, a lot of people have spoken to us that we saw you on TV. So yes the effort that has gone in the last 6-7 months is finally coming to light.

And then earlier you also roped in Lionel Messi. Byju’s First World Cup, Messi’s last. Tell us about your strategy and thought behind roping in Messi? How did it happen and what will he bring to the table?

The primary reason for us to sign up with FIFA was markets outside India. We have operations and businesses growing in LATAM specially Mexico, Argentina and some of the other countries in LATAM. Messi is the biggest icon ever seen by LATAM outside Maradona and Pele. The reason for us signing in Messi was to put the brand at the forefront specially in LATAM. We signed him at the start of the financial year in March and April while we announced it right now. The larger reason for having someone like Messi is for our international markets. The advertising campaign that we created is already getting played out in those markets. We are seeing initial traction where people are at least seeing the brand, are relating to the brand. You have Messi as the brand ambassador. You have on-ground branding happening during the FIFA World Cup. If you add all these things you are now creating a presence in consumers’ minds, that was the objective.

BYJU’s faced backlash for signing Messi, one of the world’s highest paid footballers, as a brand ambassador soon after laying off 2,500 employees. What do you have to say on that? Do you feel announcement was ill timed?

It was just a coincidence that we went into some amount of ‘right-sizing’ and the Messi announcement came. This is not something we had planned for. These were two independent pieces. While Messi as I said was primarily signed for international markets, the spill over in India was humungous. While the right-sizing was primarily for India.

Do you see the impact of this backlash on the objective that you set out to achieve by roping in Messi in the first place?

There was enough and more chatter on social media platforms. But people who understand the strategic reasons of why we do what we do understand the larger piece. There are some sections of the social media who went and said these guys have signed Messi at the same time they are ‘right-sizing’ X amount of people. But, at an overall level there was no major impact. It is unfortunate that we had to go through this exercise because of all the reasons that we know of. But these are independent initiatives. Brand initiative is for the international markets and we are true to the objective. The overall strategy, the overall planning and the overall approach with FIFA and also with Messi is working wonderfully well for us.

Qatar 2022 is arguably the most scrutinized World Cup in history. From an official sponsor perspective what is your standpoint on this?

Everybody needs to follow the law of the land. The World Cup is happening in this part of the world and one needs to follow the rule which is laid out by the Government. But as far restrictions are concerned, yes it is quite a restrictive process. From a sponsor perspective or even from a fan perspective. But if you follow the instructions, if you do things on time, It is a very well planned system. You will not face any issues or any problems. But if one ends up doing a sponsored based activity, 4 days prior to the start of the World Cup, it will not be possible.

You must have met other sponsors, especially about restrictions and stuff, and what happened with Budweiser. What are they saying?

So, I haven’t met the Budweiser guys but all the other sponsors whether it is VISA, Coke, Hyundai-Kia, now every brand has its own advantage. For example Hyundai has the opportunity of showcasing its future cars. So they might be doing that. Coke has a nice set up in the stadiums where one can go and experience the Coke Zone. So every brand has the opportunity to do it. I have spoken to 2-3 other sponsors. All of them are equally happy and equally tensed ‘hope there are no changes coming in from the business’ because any change to be implemented right now, will take a lot of time.

Finally, Most important question….which team are you rooting for?

We are all rooting for Argentina. Even if the team does not top the group they will come second and get into the round of 16.

First Published on Nov 26, 2022 11:39 AM