MUMBAI: Patanjali Ayurved was one of the top ten advertisers on TV in 2016 in terms of insertions but it appears to be changing tack in 2017 as it puts more emphasis on sponsorship.

Data from measurement company BARC India showed that the ayurvedic FMCG business inserted almost 1.14m ads on the nation's screens last year, putting it third behind Hindustan Unilever and Reckitt Benckiser.

Most of those ads (84.4%) were shown on news channels which was not only cost effective for the brand – the Economic Times reported that Patanjali advertisements were displayed on TV channels for 7,221 hours across 161 channels, equating to an average of 19 hours 43 minutes of advertising time every day – but also reached traders rather than consumers.

"It was a very smart move to go for news genre, which otherwise had insignificant FMCG presence," said Basabdatta Chowdhury, national COO at Starcom India. "Today, Patanjali has over 70% presence in the news genre in the category. They couldn't have achieved the same in the Hindi general entertainment or movie categories."

Anand Chakravarthy, managing partner at Maxus India, added that as many traders viewed news channels, the advertising was aimed at building confidence in this audience, since consumers already had trust in Baba Ramdev, the yoga behind the brand.

"It's a situation where consumers are asking for the products, and retailers are in turn reaching out to stockists and distributors," he explained. "It's a pull strategy versus push strategy that many FMCG majors follow."

If 2016 was about clever use of TV, then 2017 is shaping up to be about sponsorship. At the start of the year Patanjali became the title sponsor for the next two seasons of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL).

The company has made clear it will only be associated with Indian sports – "We'll never sponsor cricket. That's not an Indian sport," a spokesman said – and with events that build on Indian culture, including reality TV shows and drama serials.

A second aspect of its sponsorship approach is that Baba Ramdev himself participates in some way, Mint noted – which, given his personal following, ensures higher viewership than might otherwise be the case.

Observers estimate that sponsorships may now account for a quarter of Patanjali's total advertising and promotional expenditure, which could be up by a third in 2017.

Data sourced from Economic Times, Mint; additional content by Warc staff