CRIC

Sourav Ganguly-Fortune fiasco: Was suspension of ad the right move?

Brand custodians opine that it was a sensible decision by the company to halt the ad, given the polarised environment

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Jan 6, 2021 8:58 AM
ganguly

It has been a time when online conversations have turned into a bruising sport. Brands finding themselves in the line of fire is pretty much commonplace these days with their reputations being dragged to the boxing ring as customers clash over political affiliations, religious beliefs and personal biases. The latest brand to face the ire is Adani Wilmar. The company had to halt advertisements of its Fortune Rice Bran Cooking Oil featuring former Indian cricket team’s captain Sourav Ganguly after he suffered a cardiac problem last week. The brand, however, confirmed that Ganguly will continue to be their brand ambassador.

Some eagle-eyed netizens noted that Ganguly had been the brand ambassador for Adani Group’s Fortune Rice Bran Cooking Oil. Since then, the internet had a field day with some trolling the brand for its seemingly hollow promise. Some even pointed out that trolling the brand and dragging an ailing Ganguly into the matter is in poor taste. Some Twitter users also added a political colour to the controversy, connecting the brand's name to the on-going farmers' protest. Here are some of the reactions to the news. 

Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and former Asia marketing head of HP Inc, notes that in an increasingly polarised world, brands are beginning to be caught in the political crossfire, often inadvertently. Mathias feels that withdrawing the ad by the company in this context is the natural thing to do.  “I am not surprised that Adani-Wilmar has chosen to halt the Fortune Rice Bran Cooking Oil ads featuring Sourav Ganguly for now. When a brand signs on a celebrity endorser, it takes on the risk that comes with it.  In this case, as Fortune chose a well-regarded sportsperson, it was a smart choice. Unfortunately, Sourav Ganguly suffered a heart attack, something that could happen to anybody,” he said.

According to the information available, the brand team shot the campaign, in which Ganguly ironically promotes heart health, during the lockdown.

According to Prathap Suthan, Managing Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Bang In The Middle, the controversy is nothing out of the ordinary, given the kind of social media scrutiny brands have to grapple with these days. Suthan feels that there is a way the brand can come back stronger with whatever has happened.

“There’s really nothing to worry about what’s happened. The fact is that we are all vulnerable at any time. Celebs included. Haven’t we had sports people being brought down by disease and illnesses? I would think it’s a very real scenario that’s happened. Ideally, this is not a moment for anyone to harp on and make hay for competitive brands. Or people who have nothing else to but critique. Ganguly was one of the most outstanding cricketers we’ve had and with great credibility. I don’t think he or the brand ever said it will prevent or stop heart attacks. Trolls will do what they do. It’s expected. Personally, Ganguly ought to remain its ambassador. They might have to change the communication angle. But he should stay. Makes the brand committed to its choice of celeb,” he asserts.

The former Indian cricket captain was named brand ambassador of Fortune Rice Bran oil in January last year.

Dr. Sandeep Goyal, brand expert and Chief Mentor, IIHB, feels that brands today need to steer clear of political landmines. “The Ganguly controversy is as much about him as about the Adani’s ownership of Fortune. The angst in the North on Adani because of the farmer’s stir has made this a bigger issue than the heart attack,” Dr Goyal notes.

However, Angshu Mallick, Deputy CEO, Adani Wilmar, told the media that the company has temporarily paused the advertisement but will continue associating with Ganguly for the brand.

Samit Sinha, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, too feels that the move was a step in the right direction as he observes that to have continued to run the ad after the incident came to light would have been utterly foolish on the part of the advertiser, as that would have made the brand a laughing stock and done it incalculable damage, at least in the short-term.

“I cannot imagine that taking the advertisement off the air was purely in reaction to social media trolling, as any alert and sensible marketer would have in any case immediately issued orders to stop the advertisement as soon as they would have come to know of Sourav Ganguly’s heart-related medical emergency. I cannot find fault with the marketer for their choice of the brand endorser, and while I find the positioning unimaginative and the claim somewhat questionable, neither can I blame it in particular for promoting it as a product that helps keep the heart healthy. Ganguly’s heart-attack could not have been predicted and had, in all likelihood, nothing to do with the brand of cooking oil he was using. The role of social media in this case has only served to amplify this rather ironic linkage and made even those previously unaware of it, the fact that the brand was being endorsed by Sourav Ganguly as being healthy for the heart,” he remarks.

Sinha underlines that the real danger for a brand today is that social media can very quickly turn a negative ripple into an uncontrollable tsunami.

 

 

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