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The festive season is a natural ally for brands in terms of marketing and sales. The biggest festive season in India is Diwali; the entire month leading up to Diwali provides excellent avenues for brands not only to sell their products but also to associate their brand identity with the values of the given festival.

Christmas, however, is a festival that is not entrenched deeply in the cultural ethos of India, unlike Diwali, Dusshera or even Holi. Christmas is an import from the west, and the people who celebrate it in India consider themselves a part of the global community. Indians at large are not familiar with the customs and traditions related to Christmas. Christmas is not viewed as a festival in Indian culture but is rather seen as an event.

While it is easier for brands to advertise their products on other Indian festivals by portraying festivals as an opportunity for family bonding in their advertisements, Christmas, on the other hand, is an alien concept for most Indian families. Familial bonds, such as the bond between brothers and sisters on Rakshabandhan, families during Diwali, and friends on Holi, are not central to the narrative in ads made around Christmas.

Here are some examples:

What does Santa really look like?|Santa's Resume

Three years ago, Swiggy made an emotional ad around Christmas. The ad's narrative revolves around a single mother who works as a food-delivery agent for Swiggy and earns a living to provide for her son. It is only due to this job that she can give him Christmas gifts. 

The ad positioned the figure of the single working mother as an altruistic caregiver. 

Swiggy portrayed the mother as Santa Claus. In a society that is deeply patriarchal, Swiggy tried to say that mothers, too, can be providers. Although in this narrative, we can only observe the provider quality of the mother in the absence of the child’s father. 

The messaging was good and progressive and worked well for Swiggy as it was also able to successfully communicate to the audience that Swiggy is an equal-opportunity employer.

In 2021 however, Swiggy tried to use humour and positioned Santa Claus as an unemployed man; he is out of work as he has been replaced by the Swiggy Genie, who does all his deliveries now.

2021’s ad campaign has a much more direct product placement than the one made in 2018.

A Christmas surprise ft. Virat Kohli

Star Sports made an ad around children in shelter homes who want their Christmas wishes fulfilled. The kids wanted many things as gifts, and Star Sports also asked them who their favourite sportsperson was. The children gave various answers ranging from PV Sindhu to Sachin Tendulkar. Some of them also mentioned Virat Kohli in their responses.

Since cricket is the biggest sport in India, Star Sports made its ad with the most popular contemporary cricketer - Virat Kohli. In the ad, Kohli is seen watching videos of the children’s responses on his tablet while sitting in his vanity van. 

The camera is positioned at a low angle to make Kohli appear privileged compared to the kids. When we see the over-the-shoulder shot of Kohli watching the videos, the camera shifts to a high angle to make the kids appear less privileged.

After watching the footage, Kohli dresses up as Santa and distributes gifts which the children had asked for in the video. And after distributing gifts to the children, he reveals his real identity. The kids scramble to hug Virat Kohli. 

Star Sports played on the theme of giving and the element of surprise in this ad. It viewed Christmas as a festival of giving to the underprivileged. Interestingly, Star Sports had nothing to sell through this ad. It had no upcoming sporting event around the time of Christmas.

The ad seemed more like a PR campaign for both Star Sports and Virat Kohli since there was no product placement or value proposition in this ad. By featuring a popular cricketing icon in its campaign, it disseminates the message that we should be altruistic and benevolent towards the needy.

The Santa - Doctor Surprise!

Even though BookMyShow does not provide any services related to deliveries, it built a campaign around booking a smile for its patients. The ad was released in December 2020 when the pandemic had disrupted the world. The event industry got badly hit by covid. BookMyShow also had to rely on online shows to generate revenue since the entire ‘show business’ essentially became non-existent overnight. 

BookMyShow thus relied on a sort of PR campaign to make itself relevant again. It started the ‘Book-A-Smile’ initiative around spreading smiles amongst patients admitted to hospitals. In the video, the doctors and nurses dress up as Santa and elves, respectively and in a way, ‘put on a show’ to make the patients smile.

The campaign makes sense since the pandemic took away all the business of BMS, and BMS had no proposition to showcase during the pandemic. However, it wanted to remain etched in the consciousness of the consumer.

#WhatifWishes came true? | Celebrating Christmas Faasos way

Faasos went to the extent of building a marketing campaign wherein they fulfilled the childhood wishes of their customers by giving them gifts. They ran a social media campaign asking their customers about their childhood wishes and fulfilled the same.

Interestingly, instead of depicting Santa in a traditional red costume, they got a ‘Purple Santa’ to distribute the gifts. The use of the colour purple is associated with Faasos’s logo. The Faasos team in the ad, who are curating gifts for people and helping Santa distribute the gifts, were also dressed in purple. The gifts had also been wrapped using purple wrapping paper.

Faasos thus moved away from the conventional red colour associated with Christmas and made Christmas its own.


When it comes to Christmas, most brands do not incorporate the importance of the familial bond in the narratives of their ad campaigns. In India, Christmas is seen more as a festival of giving than a festival of family. Brands have tried to build their campaigns around the giving nature of people during Christmas. They have offered gifts to the needy, i.e. children living in shelter homes and patients in hospitals. 

Most brands also try to relate Christmas to children in one way or another. While Swiggy’s ad focussed on a mother delivering food to earn a living for her child, Faasos built upon the universal desire to fulfil our childhood wishes. Star Sports built its entire narrative around children living in impoverished settings and the sports channel fulfilling their wishes by giving them gifts and a chance to meet their favourite sportsperson.

The theme of giving works well with children on the receiving end of the act, as only the parental bond is the one where one party gives and the other receives. It is a relationship of giving rather than a mutually beneficial relationship. The figure of Santa Claus, thus too, is a father figure; he is an older benevolent man who means no harm to anyone and just gives gifts to children based on their behaviour. However, the difference between Santa Claus and fathers is that in our shared cultural notions, fathers are supposed to act as protectors rather than just providers.

Out of these four brand videos, Star Sports is the only one that viewed Christmas as a mass festival. By making the ad in Hindi and featuring an extremely popular sports figure, it has tried to connect to the masses much more than other brands.

As seen in all the above communications, brands position themselves as Santa Claus by giving out gifts without expecting anything in return so that the audience develops an affinity for the brands and sees them as benevolent and giving. 

Actionable insights:

The semioscape of Christmas from the perspective of brands includes a consistent pattern:

1. Christmas is seen as a festival of giving rather than family bonding.

2. Santa Claus is the central character of Christmas, brands in India don’t associate Christmas with candy canes, trees or gingerbread.

3. The narratives are built around children because brands can easily build upon the theme of altruism with children.

4. Brands also try to position themselves as Santa because they’re the ones who are instigating the Santa in the ads to come in and distribute the gifts. The audience associates the altruistic acts performed in the campaign with the brand.