Milkha Singh is the only name that comes to my mind when I think of a male athlete in the Indian track and field sprint event. Milkha, often referred to as the “Flying Sikh”, till date is the only Indian male athlete to win an individual athletics gold medal at a Commonwealth Games. Awarded with the Padma Shri, the man won 77 out of his 80 races. Ergo the high expectations when popular Bollywood director Rakeysh Mehra announced his biographical sports film on Milkha.
Released on the 12th of July, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB)” has Farhan Akhtar enacting Milkha along with Sonam Kapoor. Inspired by the autobiography of Milkha, titled ‘The Race of My Life’, the movie has got positive reviews from the critics and has been declared as a big success at the box office.
Along with all modes of promotions, it also chose social media as one of the mediums which saw good investment. The job was given to social media agency Ignitee, which has done some awesome work in the past for Bollywood movies like GOW I,II and Special 26.
The initial content plan
The social media activities that focused majorly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus was initiated from 20th Nov, 2012. The activities which started 8 months before the movie launch, had the first teaser launched on 29th Nov, 2012. With a lot of buzz, the teaser created a platform for the agency to engage with fans.
But, for the next four to six months, the agency had no content as such related to the movie. So to keep up the engagement, Ignitee decided to build their content on educating fans about Milkha and weaving content around motivational quotes.
“The social media properties were active but there was no actual movie content available as the full fledged campaign began in May 2013. To continue the fan engagement, we used content that is close to the movie ‘INSPIRATION & MOTIVATION’,” shared Group Account Manager at Ignitee Sufiyan Khan, while sharing about the initial social media strategies.
Most of the posts were image driven with a motivational quote to bring out the essence of the film. The content plan continued till May 2013 and by then a teaser trailer and 3 songs had already been released. The teaser trailer has got over 2 million views and the songs became popular too.
Facebook activities and apps
Facebook apps were created for the songs along with lyrics, enabling fans to watch the videos. Besides the regular move, the agency launched an app that would provide exclusive movie content to the fans.
The First Look Club tab provided exclusive content 6-8 hours before it was shared on the social media platforms. Users had to submit their contact details. Every time a new content piece was released, be it image, video, or any other content, a mailer was sent to all the registered users 12 hours before the actual release of the content.
“We intend to send out bi weekly mailers to these users updating them on all the latest happenings which they might have missed out in spite of liking the page. The idea was to go deeper and engage the fans on a micro level with specific mailers, which have not been explored by movies in the past,” added Sufiyan, while talking about the objective of the First Look Club. Close to five thousand people had signed up for the exclusive content.
Some other apps that were created during the campaign were:
Chase Your Dream tab asked fans to share a realistic dream that they want to achieve in their life. Users had to click on the tab, mention their first name and select from a list of Milkha’s images available along with the dream they are chasing, and a date they want to achieve it by. The output of this app was a customized cover photo with your name and dream.
“Milkha ran towards achieving his dream of representing India on the world map, and each of us has a dream we want to achieve in our life. We wanted our fans to let the Milkha in them out; the unique app called “Chase Your Dream” was launched where fans could create their personalized BMB cover photos,” shared Sufiyan.
Milkha Fan Art tab was launched quite early and it led to the creation of a lot of user generated content from the hardcore fans of Milkha. Building on the existing content, the agency started a contest where fans were asked to send in their creations using the BMB/Milkha’s images available online and the impressive content providers got a chance to meet the cast of the film.
Microsite and Google Plus
During the execution of the extensive campaign, a microsite was created too. It is quite known that Milkha Singh’s life was that of an ordinary man, full of struggles but what made it special was his hard work to overcome all the struggles and emerge as a winner. The site was launched to bring out the undying spirit present in all of us. Powered by a Facebook login, once fans visited the site, their Facebook profile picture becomes a part of Milkha’s mosaic poster.
Sufiyan informed me that the final plan is to take the mosaic poster of Milkha offline. Right now the agency is awaiting confirmation on the mosaic poster getting deployed on hoardings across the city.
Google Plus, which is becoming popular because of its Hangout, was also used by the team during the launch of the full trailer. 9 lucky fans were selected via a contest that gave a chance to be part of the Google+ Hangout. Moderated by Bollywood film critic, Aniruddha Guha, the Hangout also had Farhan and Rakeysh. The below screen grab is from the Hangout.
Sufiyan informed that the Hangout or the fan interactions was held before the actual release of the trailer. He also believes that the trailer launch via Google Hangout is a first-of-its-kind in the industry.
Both the leading stars of the movie – Farhan, Sonam and Rakeysh are active on Twitter and their presence helped in to build the base on Twitter. The Twitter account that has more than 5600 followers, stayed away from any kind of senseless hashtag contest promotions.
— Farhan Akhtar (@FarOutAkhtar) July 1, 2013
One of the interesting activities that was held on Twitter was “Salute Milkha” which was associated with the trailer launch. Besides this the Twitter handle spread the lesser known facts about Milkha, who is probably best known for his fourth-place finish in the 400 metres final at the 1960 Olympic Games. Movie trivia, quizzes, etc. were followed two days before the movie launch.
Challenges faced in the campaign
Sufiyan informed that there were no challenges but when the teaser portrayed Farhan as Milkha, fans went mad about the actor forgetting the real hero. This was the time when the agency launched Milkha’s trivia and on Twitter they focused on the hero that many of us are not aware.
I am yet to see the movie but the social media campaign does justice to the man and the movie.
The movie seems to be a due tribute to the sportsman, who sold the rights to produce the movie for one rupee but inserted a clause stating that a share of the profits would be given to the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust – a trust founded in 2003 to assist poor and needy sportspeople.