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Piyush Nangru

Education brands have been one of the top spenders on branded content in India. From associating with music properties to snackable content to long-form content, some of India’s best-branded content has been produced by this category. 

Launched in 2019, Sunstone, a higher education service provider is one of the recent education brands testing the waters in the branded content space to meet its brand-building objectives. 

Sharing the reason behind education-related brands focusing on branded content, Piyush Nangru, Co-Founder and COO, Sunstone, said, “If you look at the trends in the last two to three years, education and entertainment are sorts of crossing roads and that’s what the brands have realised lately. Some players in the education sector are completely integrated into 'edutainment’ now.” 

He even pointed out that given the increase in time spent by the audience on screens to consume content across genres, it’s inevitable for brands to take the branded content route. He said, “If you combine the data and statistics to see the total watch hours on OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, MX-player, YouTube or Zee5, it is quite high. Moreover, with the proliferation of Jio and smartphones, this is where the eyeballs are right now, which is also better for our relevant TG. The watch hour ratio in this particular TG is very high.”

While most of the brands shy away from spending heftily on long-form content like web series, early in their branded content journey, Sunstone has partnered with ‘The Timeliners’ from the ‘The Viral Fever’ Network for a new show – ‘NCR Days - Dreams, Dosti और MBA’. 

The first episode of the series will release on July 19. It features Nikhil Vijay, Ambrish Verma, Arun Kushwah, Heer Kaur, Raghvika Kohli. 

The show is a story of a small-town boy, Monu, who moves to a metro city to acquire an MBA degree. During the course of his MBA, Monu evolves as he becomes aware of new perspectives, learning through his surroundings and the people he befriends at his institute. The show stages the journey and life of students in and out of MBA colleges, also exploring their personal life along with the dynamics they share with each other.

The show seamlessly integrates the various offerings by Sunstone in its plot. The show trailer received over two lakh views on YouTube within a day of its release.

According to Nangru, the kind of impact that the long form of content is able to create is quite high in comparison to short-form content. 

Although, in the past, the brand has partnered with TVF Timeliners for one of their snackable content pieces. Sunstone has also collaborated with Disney+Hotstar for another short-form content integration. 

Amid a plethora of content platforms at brands’ disposal for their branded content needs, Sunstone decided to work with TVF because, “The content company has the capability to touch hearts and is a great storyteller. Their authenticity is something which is truly amazing and that is the reason we chose to collaborate with them. The web series has been specifically made for Sunstone as our branded content,” added Nangru. 

In the category of education, trust building plays a vital role, therefore the brand-building efforts also become significant simultaneously, as per Nangru. He said that for them branded content is all about brand building.

Nagru further said that he believes in giving creative freedom to the content platform while creating content for the brand, but he also ensures that the brand is given enough footage in the content.

He then went on to speak about not force-fitting the brand into content and trusting the content creator to tell a good story. He said, “What if the show doesn’t attract desired eyeballs, just because of forcefully fitting the brand into the content. It will only end up becoming a net loss and that’s the challenge. Rather we would trust the content creator more which is an important part of one’s branded content journey.”

The brand largely does branded content on digital as the medium helps reach out to the target audience in a more accurate manner. He said “We are more ROI focused so digital as a medium suits us better in order to reach out to TG between the age group of 17 and 22 in order to establish our MBA programmes and to showcase the campus life that Sunstone offers. As a result, 'NCR Days' is a perfect match for the brand's target audience.”

Nangru is more of a believer in taking the video content route than any other content format. In video itself, he believes that YouTube has the strongest distribution power to reach a wider audience base. 

When it comes to influencer marketing, he stated that they are heavily focusing on regional influencers, and have also roped in some vernacular influencers for marketing. Sunstone is also planning to release some interesting podcasts in the future.