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Wheeling around Tendulkar: The truth about Siena and Palio

20-May-2002
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Wheeling around Tendulkar: The truth about Siena and Palio

Minita Kumar

It's a mantra the advertising guys have pursued for a long time. And it's a classic and maybe, just maybe, a time-tested recipe for building a brand identity. If you know what Shekhar Kapur did to Digjam and what Zakir Hussain did to Taj Mahal Tea, you'll know what we are talking of. Yes, brands and celebrity endorsements. And if that's what Fiat has been trying to do in the recent past with Siena, Palio and Sachin Tendulkar, its got mixed reactions. With both Fiat Palio and now even the Fiat Siena ads boasting the legendary Tendulkar, there is some rattling to be heard in the ad world.

Standing against a blue backdrop, Tendulkar flaunts the new Siena in the latest print ad of the car. The body copy of the ad reads, 'Season's Preview. Fashion on Four Wheels. Starting May 17th, the new Fiat Sienna is being unveiled at your nearest showroom from May 17th -20th and you are invited! New Fiat Sienna. Get Noticed!'

If something has got noticed, it's not the car, but Tendulkar endorsing two Fiat brands; Palio and Siena. And it's got some of us thinking. Wouldn't using Tendulkar for two similar brands amount to stretching him too far? Opinions vary, though.

Says Vijay Chaldorikar, VP, Marketing, Fiat, "Sachin Tendulkar is the corporate brand ambassador of Fiat. So wherever we see a brand-fit, he endorses the brand. Moreover it's more important to look at the treatment being given to the ad." Quite similar are the viewpoints of Sandeep Pathak, GM, Leo Burnett, which is the agency handling the Fiat Account. "Michael Schumacher is the corporate brand ambassador of Fiat worldwide. He endorses three absolutely different brands of Fiat. Similar is the case with Tendulkar. Wherever we think he would do justice to the brand, he is present. Secondly, if we use a celebrity like Tendulkar for a single brand, we would not be using him optimally because of the high economics of securing a big name endorser", says Pathak. Sure Mr. Pathak, with the ad industry not exactly in the very pink of health, we do understand your point.

But wouldn't using the same celebrity for two entirely different cars give them a confused brand identity? "Of course", says Kiran Khalap, founder, Chlorophyll. "Fiat is using Sachin Tendulkar as a corporate brand ambassador. But the consumer does not know that. He may end up getting a fuzzy picture of the brands. No doubt, Tendulkar's halo would have a rub off on Fiat, but there is a high probability of confusing the consumer in the process," he says.

"It's a lot like Himalaya Ayurvedic Concepts. The grandmother in the ads endorses all the brands and not just one brand", says Khalap. But don't all the Ayurvedic Concepts brands have concurrent images? And for a high involvement car category, isn't it a lot of risk to have one celebrity as the spokesperson of two very dissimilar brands? Well, what future the brands see, is something only time would tell. Till then, the debate goes on.

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