Deadpool clowns its way through the box office, crosses Rs 330 mn in 5 days

Deadpool 2 released three weeks after Disney’s Avengers, which was the most anticipated film of the year
Going by popular wisdom, Deadpool 2 and its marketing men were flouting every formula in the rulebook while timing the movie’s release in India. For one the movie was coming close on the heels of the Disney blockbuster Avenger’s: Infinity war that had satiated the Indian superhero fan and it was releasing bang in the middle of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Ramzan, two big stay-at-home reasons for the country’s moviegoers. But five days into the film, the box office numbers are higher than the lifetime collections of Deadpool 1 (2016) and Fox Star is redoubling its marketing efforts for the movie, anticipating a fresh burst of footfalls in the coming week. 

In Deadpool’s marketing success lies a story that many brands are looking to decode: what gets the Indian young adult consumer to bite? Is it humour, in-your-face promotions or is it a global narrative contextualised for local audiencees? And how does one subvert the popular without alienating the masses?

Deadpool is part of a global franchise that hit the screen first in 2016 and shocked many with its use of expletives and often derisive commentary on hallowed institutions. It has gathered an enviable legion of fans across the world and in India too, where the movie has had limited reach because of its adult rating.  

Historically, studios have been reticent about pushing Hollywood (A) releases aimed at the young in India. With Deadpool, the challenge was compounded since it was going to leave out a large chunk of the superhero fans in the country, the children. Fox Star decided to wear the movie’s attitude on its sleeve, apart from trailers that did not shy away from foul language it contextualised the humour to local tastes and situations. The promotions have been tongue in cheek, borrowing not only from the characters, but also from the chatter around the movie. Also Ranveer Singh, cast as the voice of Deadpool in the Hindi dub and Ryan Reynolds the original voice of the lead got together to promote the movie on social media.   

Vijay Singh, CEO, Fox Star Studios, said, “Like Deadpool, Ranveer, too, is known for his smart, witty and irreverent humour. He’s a daring and powerhouse actor and we absolutely relished having him on board for our biggest superhero film.” While localisation has been the key word for studios releasing Hollywood films in India, the efforts are now going beyond just hiring a formidable voice cast. It has been extended to below the line marketing involving the celebrities on social media. For Deadpool 2, the Twitter banter between Singh and Reynolds around the IPL, hours after the trailer was released, went viral on social media and created a huge buzz amongst the followers of both the actors says Singh.

Deadpool 2 released three weeks after Disney’s Avengers, which was the most anticipated film of the year ($1.8 billion and counting at the global box office). And the marketing team made use of the hype around the Avengers film to create a video where Deadpool takes over the Old Trafford, Manchester United’s home ground. Because, “when you make a sequel, you need to double down on the promotions or you just get buried by Infinity War,” as the superhero puts it in the video.

Edgy marketing, localised humour and strong voices in the form of Singh and popular YouTube stand-up star Bhuvan Bam (for Dopinder, Deadpool’s timid cab driver friend/sidekick), who helms a show called BB ki Vines that has 7 million plus subscribers, have helped the movie. What has also worked is the focus on digital says Harish Bijoor, CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults. Digital is the right way forward when it comes to content with an adult or extreme adult skew in India he says. 

“As a society, India gravitates towards wholesome brands and consequently brands also want to fill that role. Such a scenario, it does not bode well for an adult brand or an extreme adult brand. So owning the identity may not work when you address the masses. This means traditional media is out (as an option). On digital, since the communication is more one on one, brands may be able to employ this strategy of owning their (renegade) personalities and reaching the intended audience,” says Bijoor. He cites the example of the AIB Roast of Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor. The roast format has been successfully executed in the West, but when AIB brought it to India, they came under fire for promoting obscenity. Marketing will always be a challenge for brands that do not fit the ‘wholesome’ mould as perceived by the Indian society as a whole. 

Staying digital helped the studio keep potential protestors at bay, even when it converted much of the humour into regional languages. The Hindi versions of trailers retained the essence of the English version, while catering to local tastes. The trailers witnessed multiple language versions, few of which like Marathi, Bhojpuri and Punjabi are going viral with more than two million views each.  

Fox Star also collaborated with the ongoing Vivo IPL to expand its reach. Deadpool carried out an integration activity with the tournament which included getting Reynolds in the show, along with Singh and running a contest for the film. On the brand associations front, Budweiser and Pringles have tied up with the movie globally, a partnership which extends to India as well.
  • Ranveer Singh was cast as the lead voice for the Hindi version, the studio sought to associate his loud and irreverent public image with that of the star of the movie
  • On Twitter, the marketing team used the buzz around the IPL to promote the film, set up a banter between Ryan Reynolds, the original lead voice and Singh about the game and the movie
  • Trailers for the movie have been released in Hindi, Marathi, Bhojpuri and Punjabi to reach language audiences

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