The Olympics may be Greek to India Inc, but when it comes to basking in the glory of national heroes, it wastes no time. On his return, Silver medal winner Major Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore might find himself trapped and shot by the camera, will-nilly inducted into the glitzy world of celebrity endorsement.
There could be hiccups along the way, though. According to Section 63 of the Good Order & Military Discipline Army Act, a clearance from the Army Liaison Cell at headquarters is needed. And it may or may not be forthcoming.
Videocon Group chairman VN Dhoot would certainly be hoping for such a green signal. “Yes, Indian corporates will certainly rush to sign Rathore. In fact, we are also thinking of approaching him,” he reveals.
Adds advertising veteran Alyque Padamsee, “I think it’s a wonderful achievement for India. And if the media can make Rathore into a hero, then many Indian corporates will jump to sign him up. Otherwise, he’ll disappear amidst Dhyan Chand and other unsung heros. If Nike has some sense, they should snap up Rathore rightaway.”
McCann Erickson India executive vice-president Santosh Desai agrees, but has some caveats. “Definitely, he will be used. But, one, he should be used right now, as he’s topical. Second, he should be used in a message-based communication rather than an entertainment-based one. Also, he may not have lasting appeal as a standalone celebrity.”
Which is why some corporates are still assessing Rathore’s appeal. Global luxury watches and jewellery major LVMH representative Manishi M Sanwal says: “We are keenly observing the India squad at the Olympics, and may look at building relationships with some athletes.”
Casting a more supportive vote is Ashok Jain, CEO of GoodHealthNYou: “I think he’s a hot property and corporates should sign him up now. Ideally, companies which are looking at physical activities and precision should use Rathore in their advertisements.”
Of course, Rathore is unlikely to be the next Sachin Tendulkar or Shah Rukh Khan, given the country’s short-lived interest in a sport like shooting.
“Celebrity endorsements are successful only if they have mass appeal. I don’t see much scope for Rathore as a celebrity, given the state of niche sports in our country,” says Godfrey Phillips India director-marketing Nita Kapoor.
Agrees a brand consultant who requests anonymity, “No, I don’t think Indian corporates will rush to sign up Rathore. His game is an esoteric sport and it does not have a mass following, like cricket.”
In the same vein, Lemon CEO Ravi Deshpande says, “I don’t think too many corporates would rush to sign up Rathore as this sport is not popular with Indians. I think companies like Nike should use Rathore in their communication strategy.”
Like in the stock market, it’s all a question of picking a winner.