Owning social responsibility, All England badminton champion, Pullela Gopichand recently refused a lucrative endorsement deal offered by a cola major. “I am against aerated drinks as they are not good for health,” he said to Times News Network. This might be more an exception than the rule and a whole host of celebrities are consenting to be a part of the marketing communication strategies of various brands. It is fairly common practice for major firms to depend on celebrity endorsements in supporting corporate or brand imagery. Firms and brand managers in India for a long time now have been juxtaposing their brands and the corporates with celebrity endorsers whether sportspersons or actors in the hope that celebrities may boost effectiveness of their marketing communication attempts.
Large & popular brands select celebrities on the basis of various parameters such as ‘fit’ with the advertising idea, Celebrity—Target audience match, Celebrity values, Costs of acquiring the celebrity, Celebrity—Product match, Celebrity controversy risk, Celebrity popularity, Celebrity availability, Celebrity physical attractiveness, Celebrity credibility, Celebrity prior endorsements, Whether celebrity is a brand user, Celebrity profession, Celebrity Equity, membership status etc.
Amitabh Bachchan for instance currently has on his list ICICI Bank, Parker Pens, Pepsi, Maruti Versa and has also endorsed Mirinda in the past. Shah Rukh Khan has endorsed everything from Top Ramen Noodles, to Omega watches, to Pepsi, to Videocon to Santro to Home Trade to Clinic Plus. Hrithik Roshan sells Coca-Cola, Tamarind and Home Trade. Thums Up used Salman Khan and Sunil Shetty to prove it is the cola for grown ups. Sachin Tendulkar whom a lot of marketers feel has the most appeal in India endorses Fiat Palio, VISA, Adidas amongst others and Saurav Ganguly sells us Hero Honda (with Hrithik for added support) and Kingfisher.
Presence of a celebrity in more than one advertisements for different products and brands in some or the other way could have contributed to confusion in the minds of the viewers, which in turn could be jeopardizing the intention to strike the right chord with the consumer. For example take the case of Amitabh Bachchan who is at one instance involved with ICICI and on the other is endorsing Pepsi or Shahrukh Khan in an ad drives the Zip drive Santro and in the other ad features endorsing the new financial services brand Home Trade. Viewers see and recognise these ads just because of Big B and Shahrukh Khan. Though the presence of these household names gives an advantage to the products, but the viewer ends up being confused “Whether I should use this product or that stuff?” Since it is the celebrity factor, which undoubtedly enhances the brand image, the viewer lands up in a topsy-turvy state of mind in deciding what all products he or she should use. Gopichand's refusal to endorse a product that he doesn’t believe in may be an isolated case, but marketers need to be also careful about celebrity usage. It would be for example very interesting to know how many celebrities believe in and actually use a product or a brand that they endorse.
"Brands like Pepsi look at using a basket of celebrities. But using a multiplicity of celebrities tends to have a cancelling out effect, if they're not used well." asserts Richa Arora, Head of Planning, FCB Ulka. Switching between brands can also cause a bit of a blur in the minds of the consumer, aver creative heads at agencies. She further adds "As for overexposure, celebrities are constantly in the media whether we use them in ads or not. Their media exposure is what makes them celebrities. The trouble starts when the ads are corny and people do not enjoy watching them; when you use a celebrity, you should be fair to the image of the celeb as well as the image of the brand. The best way to do this is to get a celeb whose brand image is in keeping with the brand even if it means not using a cricketer or a movie star”.
Says Vivek Kamath, Director, Matrix Consultancy, who had worked on the Home Trade campaign "I am all for the use of celebrities in advertising. The trouble is, we tend to abuse our celebrities”. Elaborating further Richa Arora opines, "Having said that, if the celebrity is used in a certain relevant context the advertising is bound to work. Sometimes it’s how the celebrities are handled that makes all the difference. For instance the Pepsi ad with Shahrukh and Sachin was done well enough for both the celebs to be credible in the ad.” Industry experts concur and point out that Pepsi ads with Amitabh Bachchan and the child model Yash Pathak, have also been very well created and have been liked by the audiences. Commenting on this, Vivek Kamath further adds "Pepsi is all about movies and cricket and uses its celebrities very well” He gives another example in Shobha De's endorsement for the JW Marriott hotel “She's a terrific brand fit as the JW in Mumbai is only the 20th JW in the world”.
Only thing, which would strike the right chord, would be to use the celebrity who can be synonymous and should reflect the brand endorsed by them. And to use this factor effectively, observable fact that has come up in due course of time is the making of Brand Ambassadors. Some of the latest brand ambassadors are Shahrukh Khan for Omega, Aishwraya Rai for De Beers’ Nakshatra, Hrithik Roshan for Tamarind, Jawed Habib of the renowned chain of Habib's Hair Salons for Sunsilk, Rahul Dravid for Castrol India Limited, John Abraham and Fardeen Khan for Provogue to name a few. In the West, this is a long-established pattern. Cindy Crawford has for years endorsed Omega watches, and Pierce Brosnan wore the brand in his last James Bond movie “Once is not Enough”.
In the recent years, television, one of the most popular media, has become the most preferred medium for celebrity endorsement strategy. Popular soaps and their characters have also become brands in their own right. Serials like Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (KSBKBT) have made Mihir and Tulsi a brand name in the middle class segment of Indian Society. These actors have started endorsing some products but not on a very large scale. It could be predicted that with the growing popularity of TV and its soaps, the day is not very far when television soaps characters would equally share the limelight as their film star counterparts and would become brand ambassadors.
To conclude, says Vivek Kamath "Make sure the celebrity is a good brand fit and since you've spent serious money in signing on an entertainer, make sure the ads are entertaining to watch." In a nutshell, if large firms want to use celebrities to endorse their brands, they should keep in mind that the choice and linking of celebrity with their product is very important apart from presenting ads in the best and the most entertaining package so that it could subsequently result in brand enhancement and increased sales. Pepsi, Fiat Palio and other brands using celebrities can be reasonably happy as for now it looks like Celebrities Ka Magic Chal Raha Hai!