From inviting celebrities to khunti puja to getting their theme songs made, Puja committees have left no stone unturned to get sponsors and masses to their pandal.
While some have roped in celebrity singers like Shreya Ghosal and Jeet Ganguli to sing their ‘theme songs’, others had started promoting their Puja pandal as early as July by inviting Tollywood celebrities for khunti puja (ceremony with which pandal construction begins). Over the past couple of years, some of the biggest Durga Pujas of the city have taken their promotions and branding to a new level altogether, instead of banking on word-of-mouth publicity alone.
Banking on PR
Even a few years back, even locals around famous Puja pandals would never come to know when the khunti puja — done about four months before the actual festival — took place. But now, with Puja committees trying to garner maximum publicity, even the smallest developments are used to promote their pandal Pujas. Branding is a serious affair now.
“Last year, chief minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated our pandal and called it the best Puja she has seen till date. It definitely gave us a lot of mileage and helped in getting better footfall,” said Subir Das, secretary of Bhowanipore 75 Palli.
Theme Songs & Celebs
Suruchi Sangha has been vigorously promoting its Puja as a brand by coming up with unique promotional ideas for the last seven years. This year, they had started off with teaser ads across the city featuring late director Rituparno Ghosh and actress Raima Sen. Now they have also come up with a theme song, the video of which is quite popular on Youtube and is aired across Bengali channels.
“These initiatives help us in connecting with the masses and reaching corporate houses who advertise with us. It creates a sense of intrigue among people. When they visit the pandal, the advertisers get lakhs of viewers for the banners put up at the pandal,” said Swarup Biswas, general secretary of the club.
Suhrid Sangha Puja committee roped in actress Rituparna Sengupta as their brand ambassador last year as a promotional strategy. “We were a small Puja by the Lake Market that was hardly known in the Durga Puja circuit. But just as we started advertising by using her image, both sponsors and masses flocked to us,” said Biswadeep Ganguly, club secretary.
“We organised media interactions with Rituparna at the pandal ground and are now getting a theme song ready too. Things like these are giving us a boost,” he added.
“Last year we only had one Puja in our clientele, but this year it’s three. By branding themselves, they can assure sponsors of a good footfall. It’s a win-win situation for both parties. Six years back, when we started working with Singhi Park, it had a budget of Rs 30 lakh. Now, they have already collected Rs 50 lakh,” said Dolon Dasbhowmick, COO, Carpe Diem.
On the other hand, corporate houses advertising with the Puja committees are considering the festive season to be a good time to get visibility.
Thus, Coca-Cola has tied up with some of the well-known Puja committees in the city and suburbs. It is in the process of collecting caps of cold drink bottles to build a 25 feet tall structure of a dhaaki, that will be installed at one of the pandals. “We selected some Puja committees in and around Kolkata for this initiative towards connecting with our consumers. It is all about doing innovative things at the right time and at the right location,” said Debabrata Mukherjee, VP strategy and innovation, Coca-Cola India.
There are a number of corporate houses that get all worked up to flash their ads at the premises of popular Pujas of the city. One of these is Emami Healthy and Tasty, a cooking oil brand that would be organising a cooking competition of the Saptami bhog among 10 housing societies.
“Apart from the hoarding campaign, we are particularly trying to connect with the housewives who would be directly involved in the bhog making process. We would provide them the cooking oil for the competition as well as give them free samples. This is the third year of this competition and it’s a very good way of connecting,” said a spokesperson of Emami Biotech Ltd.
Though I belong to an age when branding was unthinkable for a religious festival like the Durga Puja, I feel that it is needed now. Costs rising year by year, and there is competition to draw people to pandals, what with so many Pujas. The sponsors bring in much-needed money, visibility, and get their brand promotion in return. People are brand-conscious now and don't raise eyebrows at sponsored Pujas.
Branding is so all-pervasive now. Brands bring in much-needed sponsorship money for the Pujas as well as reach, as they advertise the Pujas also.
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