Film celebrities mark their attendance in ed-tech sector

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Updated: Feb 22, 2021 11:00 PM

As per data from research firm Tracxn, ed-tech start-ups last year raised funding to the tune of $2.15 billion as compared to $552 million in 2019.

However, the use of endorsers by several companies in the space has also created clutter.However, the use of endorsers by several companies in the space has also created clutter.

Last year, when brands slashed their marketing budgets and celebrities took pay cuts, education-technology (ed-tech) emerged as a sunshine segment for endorsements. Backed by massive VC investments, overall, six ed-tech platforms roped in celebrities for endorsements last year.

Some of the notable deals in the segment were Vedantu with Aamir Khan, WhiteHat Jr with Hrithik Roshan, Great Learning with Virat Kohli and Eduauraa with Ranveer Singh. Byju’s, which has been associated with Shahrukh Khan since 2018, signed on south Indian film actors Mohanlal, Mahesh Babu and Sudeep Sanjeev to launch their television ad campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, respectively.

Although ed-tech has been on a growth trajectory for some years now, the pandemic gave the segment a shot in the arms as schools, colleges and physical coaching classes remained shut. According to Madhur Singhal, managing partner and CEO, Praxis Global Alliance, the user traffic on these platforms last year increased by four-five times, while their paid users grew by over two times. As a result, ed-tech saw massive fundraising last year.

As per data from research firm Tracxn, ed-tech start-ups last year raised funding to the tune of $2.15 billion as compared to $552 million in 2019.

The influx helped these companies rope in A-lister celebrities such as Virat Kohli and Ranveer Singh and leverage premium sports properties like IPL. Virat Kohli, reportedly, charges an annual fee of `6-7 crore for endorsements, while Ranveer Singh’s endorsement fee stands at `5 crore annually. Unlike other start-up segments, the celebrities so far have kept away from investing for stake in these companies and are looking at cash-only deals. According to industry sources, Great Learning attained associate sponsorship of IPL 2020 for `100-150 crore. Unacademy, the official partner of IPL 2020, too, coughed up a similar sum to BCCI. Interestingly, Byju’s was also in the running for title sponsorship of IPL but was pipped by Dream11.

“Last year marked a big shift in our approach to marketing,” says Aparna Mahesh, chief marketing officer, Great Learning. “We launched our first-ever television campaign, signed up Virat Kohli and also became associate sponsors of IPL 2020.”

Other ed-tech start-ups also boosted television advertising last year. According to data from TAM Media Research, the average ad volume per day for the ed-tech category on TV grew by 119% between March-December, as compared to the pre-Covid period (January-February). The count of advertisers on the medium also grew by six times during the period, shows data. Byju’s topped the list of top advertisers with 65% ad volume share in the category in the pre-Covid times but from March-December its volumes dropped, while it remained on top. WhiteHat Jr, Vedantu, Unacademy and upGrad were other top advertisers on television. Before 2020, the marketing budgets of most of these companies were heavily skewed towards digital media.

The shift in marketing strategy marks their endeavour to gain a pan-India reach and recognition.

With so many players entering this segment, it became a very competitive landscape, says Aviral Jain, managing director, Duff & Phelps. According to Jain, roping celebrities helps these companies create a differentiation as the solutions they are offering to the consumers might be similar.

However, the use of endorsers by several companies in the space has also created clutter. To stand out, Dheeraj Sinha, CEO and chief strategy officer, Leo Burnett, says the companies should cast celebrities as part of their brand story instead of as pure endorsers, who are recommending a product to the audience.

Experts are of the view that though ed-tech start-ups will continue to rope in A-listers for endorsements in 2021, they will have to relook their strategies and evaluate their impact on business in the long run.

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