Mumbai: Consumer products maker Procter and Gamble Co.’s or P&G’s, haircare brand Head & Shoulders recently signed on Bollywood actor Saif Ali Khan as its brand ambassador. While the actor seems a perfect fit for the brand, what makes this deal interesting is that he has been signed on just after Kareena Kapoor was chosen as the new face for Head & Shoulders. The fact that they make up one of Bollywood’s hottest real-life couples helps.
Or take the case of Aviva Life Insurance Company India Ltd, which has appointed master blaster Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador. The company decided to portray him as a father (son in tow) in their “tension chodo…cricket khelo (forget tensions, play cricket)” ad and promotional campaign for insurance plans for children.
Experts say such personal associations add creative credibility to the brand pitch and help widen the demographic base. “As of now, a number of brands are using real-life relationships to help cut across the clutter,” says K.V. Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett India, who believes that real-life relationships, if captured in a believable way, could go a long way for the brand.
Agrees Vishal Gupta, associate director, marketing, Aviva Life Insurance: “The challenge for us was to identify how to leverage the association (with Tendulkar) better.” Explaining the rationale behind potraying Tendulkar this way, Gupta says, “We had a far better chance of being differentiated in this market. We were using Sachin (in his role as a father) in a way no one had ever before.”
The Aviva campaign will culminate with 15 father-son duos playing cricket with Tendulkar and his son Arjun. While his son will not be shown in any of the ads, he will participate in the event.
Estimated at Rs300 crore today, the market for celebrity endorsements is expected to grow to Rs2,000 crore by 2010. At least 80% of this amount is being pumped into endorsement deals with celebrities from Bollywood and sports.
Even as the market for celebrity endorsements matures in India, there is greater pressure on advertisers to ensure that their endorsements cut across the clutter and are easily recalled by consumers. Little wonder, then, that a number of advertisers are pulling out the relationship card from their marketing arsenal. Enter family, friends and in Saif’s case, girlfriend
P&G’s detergent brand Ariel recently signed on the mothers of cricketers Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, and Dinesh Karthik’s wife to be its brand ambassadors.
“Our reason is very simple. We all celebrate the champions, but the ‘real champions’ who go unnoticed are the demanding women behind these champions who settle for nothing but the best,” said a spokesperson for P&G India.
While it is no longer rare to see advertisers use real-life relationships to promote their brand—Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan for Maruti Versa, Hema Malini and her daughters Esha and Ahana for Kenstar water purifiers, the Pataudi family for a multitude of brands—it is now becoming a bigger trend, says Anirban Das Blah, chief executive, Globosport India Pvt. Ltd.
And signing on a non-celebrity relative can be extremely cost-effective for the company. “In most cases, the incremental cost is not very much,” says Blah.
Of course, if the relative in question is a celebrity, the cost may not diminish. “There would be separate contracts and the individual market rates would apply,” says Vivek Kamat, director, Matrix India Entertainment Consultants Pvt. Ltd, which worked with Hindustan Unilever Ltd to bring real-life couple John Abraham and Bipasha Basu together for Clinic All Clear shampoo.
“In some cases, you may actually end up paying a huge premium to get multiple related personalities together,” Kamat says, referring to the Bachchan family.
Costs notwithstanding, Sridhar of Leo Burnett says advertising that can capture real-life relationships in a realistic way minus cheesy ad-libbing can go a long way in grabbing consumer attention. “In the past, MMS (video phone messages) scandals involving stars and their private lives have been all over the news channels… There is a reason for that,” says Sridhar. “Everyone wants an insight into the personal and private lives of these stars. It’s almost a voyeuristic kind of advertising which people can believe is real.”