EXCLUSIVE: Gulf Oil’s partnership transcends individual players and extends to the team as a whole – Amit Gheji, Head of Marketing, Gulf Oil Lubricants India Ltd

Mr Gheji spoke at length about Gulf Oil's visibility on the jersey, the MSD factor, enhancement in sports sponsorship spending and much more.

The ecosystem of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has historically witnessed long-term partnerships between franchises and brands. The team and the brand emerge as a right fit for one another leading to an iconic partnership between the parties involved.

The franchise onboards the brand as a partner while the company fulfils its marketing goals through the visibility received by associating with the team. One of the prominent long-standing franchise-brand collaborations witnessed in the IPL folklore is the Gulf OilChennai Super Kings (CSK) pact, which kicked off in 2011. The lubricant manufacturer was named the ‘Official Team Partner’ and featured on the team jersey’s right upper chest.

In September 2011, the entity, a part of the Hinduja Group, signed the former Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as its brand ambassador. The decade-old pact has showcased various ad films of Gulf Oil featuring the wicket-keeper batter.

Before the commencement of IPL 2024, the 100-year-old company unveiled a new campaign, “Gulf Unstoppable Army,” featuring players from the five-time-champion side.

With 10+ years of partnership, a plethora of ad campaigns and customer touchpoint activations, the agreement has fared well for both entities.

To understand in detail about the landmark arrangement, SportsMint Media had an exclusive interaction with Mr Amit Gheji, Head of Marketing, Gulf Oil Lubricants India Ltd. Mr Gheji spoke at length about the brand’s visibility on the jersey, the MSD factor, enhancement in sports sponsorship spending and much more.

1. In Gulf Oil’s decade-old partnership with CSK, did the company ever plan to move from the right upper chest position to the front of the shirt?

Our longstanding collaboration with CSK has always been approached with strategic considerations regarding brand visibility and engagement. In light of this, we once commissioned a thorough analysis conducted by an independent third party aimed at understanding the impact of our logo placement. The findings of this study highlighted that our logo, positioned on the right upper chest of CSK’s jersey, is among the top in terms of brand recall and visibility.

Based on these insights, we have consistently found this placement to be highly effective for our branding objectives. Therefore, we have not contemplated relocating our logo to the front-of-shirt position, as our current placement has proven to be exceptionally beneficial for our brand recognition and recall.

2. To what extent does the enhancement of Sports Sponsorship Spending year-by-year motivate brands to bank on sports properties, especially IPL?

The enhancement of sports sponsorship spending year by year underscores the immense value that brands see in aligning themselves with premier sports properties like the IPL. The IPL has emerged as a cultural phenomenon, capturing the hearts and minds of millions of fans across the globe. For brands, investing in sports sponsorships, particularly the IPL, offers unparalleled visibility, engagement, and brand exposure.

The league’s wide reach, passionate fan base, and extensive media coverage present a compelling opportunity for brands to enhance their brand equity, connect with consumers on a deeper level, and drive business growth. As the IPL continues to evolve and expand its footprint, brands are increasingly motivated to capitalize on this dynamic platform to maximize their marketing impact and stay ahead of the curve in the competitive marketplace.

3. Building a strong relationship with consumers, B2B customers and trade partners was the motto when Gulf Oil initially partnered with CSK in 2011; more than a decade later, to what extent the goal has been achieved and were there any changes in the TG post-COVID?

Gulf’s partnership with CSK in 2011 marked the beginning of a journey focused on building enduring relationships with consumers, B2B customers, and trade partners. Over the past decade, this partnership has not only strengthened Gulf’s brand presence but has also deepened its connections with key stakeholders across diverse segments. Amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gulf remained steadfast in its commitment to nurturing these relationships, adapting its strategies to meet the evolving needs of its target audience.

As consumer behaviours shifted and digital engagement surged during the pandemic, Gulf leveraged innovative digital solutions and tailored messaging to stay connected with its audience effectively. By prioritizing customer-centric initiatives and fostering meaningful engagements, Gulf has successfully navigated the changing landscape, reinforcing its position as a trusted brand and partner in the industry.

4. How has MSD’s credibility across geographies and demographics helped Gulf Oil throughout the decade-old partnership?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s credibility and influence transcend boundaries, making him a truly global icon with a massive following across diverse geographies and demographics. As Gulf’s brand ambassador for over a decade, MSD’s association has been instrumental in enhancing the brand’s visibility, credibility, and resonance with consumers worldwide. Dhoni’s impeccable track record, leadership prowess, and universal appeal resonate with Gulf’s core values, making him the perfect embodiment of the brand’s ethos.

His presence has not only elevated Gulf’s brand equity but has also helped forge deeper connections with consumers, reinforcing trust and loyalty. Whether on the cricket field or off it, MSD’s persona exudes reliability, excellence, and integrity, qualities that align seamlessly with Gulf’s commitment to delivering superior quality products and services.

5. As a sponsor of the five-time champions for the past decade, to what extent will the team’s demand be diluted in terms of sponsorship after MSD’s retirement?

Chennai Super Kings’ illustrious journey in the IPL, culminating in five championship titles, is a testament to their unparalleled success and enduring legacy in the league. While Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s retirement will mark the end of an era, CSK’s stature as one of the most formidable teams in the IPL will remain undiminished. As a longstanding sponsor of CSK, Gulf’s partnership transcends individual players and extends to the team as a whole, embodying the spirit of excellence, resilience, and teamwork.

While MSD’s retirement will undoubtedly be the start of a transition for the team, CSK’s continued success on the field and unwavering fan base ensure that the team’s demand remains robust in terms of sponsorship. Gulf is committed to supporting CSK in their journey ahead, leveraging the team’s legacy and fan loyalty to drive mutual success and create a lasting impact in the world of cricket.

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