Dec 16, 2008

Mktg - As superstars fade, brands bet on rising stars

Arcopol Chauduri

MUMBAI: Last month, PepsiCo Snack Foods roped in Kareena Kapoor as the new face of its snack brand Kurkure.

According to industry experts, the move was to promote the brand’s new variant Desi Beats among youngsters. This, they say, takes a different tangent from Pepsico’s original push for Kurkure as an evening snack. Pepsi’s action reflects what other brands too have on their minds — to find a calling among the youth.

This is also being reflected in the alacrity with which the companies are replacing their older brand ambassadors with young, happening and popular faces.

For starters, there’s Juhi Chawla — the face of Kurkure for five years — who will now have to rest.

Joining her on the bench is Sachin Tendulkar — once the pet of most brands — who has gone missing from Airtel’s commercials. He has been replaced by younger actors such as R Madhavan, Vidya Balan, Abhay Deol, Raima Sen, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

Tendulkar’s longstanding relationship with Pepsi also came to an end in May when the soft drink giant kicked off its Youngistaan positioning and roped in Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone as star endorses.

Meanwhile, rival Coke has not yet renewed its contract with Aamir Khan even as it continues to air the ‘little drops of joy’ campaign. Other firms which replaced brand ambassadors recently are Nakshatra (Katrina Kaif for Aishwarya Rai), BSNL (Deepika Padukone for Preity Zinta), Dabur Chyawanprash (Mahendra Singh Dhoni for Amitabh Bachchan) and Fanta (Genelia D’Souza for Rani Mukherjee).

According to celebrity management consultants, most of the replacements make sense from the branding perspective.

Afsar Zaidi, managing director, Carving Dreams Entertainment (which manages actors such as Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan), said, “Most of the country’s population is under 35 years of age. Every brand wants to adopt a young look and appeal to the youth. So, young, fresh faces are fitting for certain brands.”

The trend has economic implications, too. Since new stars do not demand as fat a paycheque as their seniors, replacing brand ambassadors is a good way to trim branding and advertising costs during the times of an economic slowdown. Deriving maximum bang-for-buck is certainly a priority.

Anirban Das Blah, vice-president, Globosport, thinks Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan are slowly becoming unaffordable. “They’re not willing to rationalise their rates. A telecom major, whose marketing budget runs roughly into Rs 100 crore, can afford to pay around Rs 6-8 crore to a star endorser. But companies with smaller budgets of around Rs 18-20 crore definitely look for thrifty options,” he said.

New stars like Ranbir Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni charge around Rs 3-4 crore per brand, but this figure varies depending on the number of days devoted on each brand annually.

Experts said, in the days to come, advertisers will enter into lock-in contracts with stars for a longer time-period, but at their current market prices. Celebrity managers also said that fewer days will be allotted for shoots as new campaign launches tend to get postponed.

A recent example was Akshay Kumar, who reportedly charged Rs 8 crore for devoting just two days for a Levi’s campaign — one day for participating in a press conference and the other day was for shooting the ad campaign.

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