Congrats Boost… it’s a girl! (at last!)

Fill in the blank: “______ is the secret of my energy”.

Very easy, right?

Did you also add, “Our energy” to it? Chances are, you may have 🙂

Boost was a minnow within the ‘health food drink’ segment back in the 1980s, ruled by Horlicks and other brands like Cadbury’s Bournvita, Viva, and Maltova.

At that time in India, the health food drink’s chosen advertising narrative was to mainly appeal to the mothers of young children – so, Complan’s ‘I’m a Complan Boy’ and ‘I’m a Complan Girl’ (featuring very young versions of Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia) were uttered in front of the mother.

Horlicks and Bournvita too usually always featured a mother in their ads, with her being the decision-maker to buy the drink. They continue to appeal to mothers till this day.

In 1985, the ad agency HTA came up with a brand new campaign for Boost. This new narrative was based on the mid-80s Ogilvy UK campaign for Lucozade, featuring the British decathlete Daley Thompson. The narrative featured adrenaline-pumping visuals of a sports star working out/practicing and positions the product as the source of energy (what Lucozade is known for).

HTA’s new Boost ad narrative featured Kapil Dev, fresh from his explosive 1983 world cup win, having a hot cup of Boost after a strenuous run on a mid-80s New Delhi morning. The ad completely moved away from the mother-appeal that other health food drinks were using in their ads. It spoke directly to the target audience – the young kids and made them seek Boost by choice because they idolized Kapil.

This was also the first time the brand used the line, ‘Boost is the secret of my energy’ uttered by Kapil.

The background music was incidentally a pretty cool interpretation of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor!

The ad was a huge hit and became a template for Boost since then.

In the 90s, Boost got Kapil to pass the baton to Sachin Tendulkar and they both featured in a Boost ad together. I believe the music/jingle for this was composed by a young Dilip Kumar aka A R Rahman!

This was the first time ‘Our energy’ was added to the slogan, uttered by Kapil, after Sachin’s first sentence (‘… my energy’).

Then Boost took Sachin for a solo ad where he uttered ‘… my energy’ on his own too.

From then on, Boost has roped in assorted cricketers to utter this iconic line. The brand has also dabbled with non-cricket sports but they have not been that popular as the cricket-focused ads.

Within the cricketing spectrum, the template has always been the same, with minor variations – a cricketer interacts with kids who play cricket and both the cricketer and the kid usually end the ad with ‘Boost is the secret of our energy’ together.

This has been done with many cricketers.

Kapil Dev (before Sachin joined him):

MS Dhoni

Virat Kohli

Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladeshi cricketer)

Virender Sehwag (but without the line!)

Ajinkya Rahane

In hindsight, you may notice that all the kids that Boost has used in their ads have been boys!

Even when Boost showcased non-cricket sports, the younger participants were always boys! Take a look:

Cricket, pole vault, hurdles race, boxing, and cycling – featuring Sachin and Dhoni at the end:

Cycling – featuring Sachin:

The new Cadbury’s Dairy Milk ad is not the only classic Indian ad to offer a gender twist. Boost’s iconic template too has seen a gender twist.

For the very first time in the history of the brand’s template since the mid-80s, Boost features a young girl along with MS Dhoni and they utter the famous line together (agency: Wunderman Thompson).

In fact, after years of advertising, this is perhaps the first time Boost includes a woman (a young girl, to be specific) in its advertising since they had also done away with showing a mother in their ads to differentiate themselves from other health food drinks.

Now, like how Cadbury’s gender twist in the new ad was called out as ‘tokenism’, this ad by Boost too could come under similar criticism. But like I had explained my perspective on the tokenism charge of that iconic ad’s new version, I believe these are larger signals that point to a gathering storm. These narratives cannot ignore the gaping hole of a lack of a woman/girl in their marketing communication. Boost, in particular, seems so devoid of a woman/girl as a potential user since none of its ads have either shown a mother, or a young girl as a potential user and focused only on boys. So, it’s high time Boost evolved with its advertising.

The other perspective is this – why did the retake of the Cadbury’s Dairy Milk ad gather so much support with high emotion and sentiment, and not Boost’s effort? In fact, Boost’s new ad was released in the end of August 2021, while the new Cadbury’s ad came out in mid-September.

This is perhaps simpler to unravel. The Cadbury ad was a literal retake of a much-loved older ad. with one simple and very visible change. Everything else was retained as-is, to ensure that they do not tamper with the original’s flavor and to make people recall the earlier ad frame-by-frame.

The Boost ad’s effort is not a literal retake – it is a full-fledged update. The basic template is the same – a famous cricketer stumbles on a young cricket-obsessed kid, and they play/practice together… utter the famous line. But since so many cricketers have done this in the past, and with so many variations, there is no one single ad that people hold on to and cherish, for them to look at the new version and compare notes with.

What would be truly interesting is for Boost to do what Cadbury’s did – recreate the classic ‘famous-cricketer + kid’ template featuring say, Smriti Mandhana or Harmanpreet Kaur or Mithali Raj, along with a young, eager girl. The Cadbury’s ad did not need a famous woman cricketer because the cricketer in the original ad was a model, not an actual cricketer. But Boost’s retake demands a famous woman cricketer and not just a Dhoni. As a starting point, the new Dhoni ad is perfectly functional, but if Boost wanted to really grow up (pun unintended), it would need to boldly pull off what Cadbury’s Dairy Milk did, featuring an actual woman cricketer.

By the way, besides the TV ad, Boost also has a fantastic print version of the new ad!



1 thought on “Congrats Boost… it’s a girl! (at last!)

  1. Brilliant, simply mind-blowing in how you have dugout so many campaigns from the archives to articulate this story. I also agree with the way forward recommended..

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