Can stars from South match Bollywood’s charm in the endorsement universe?

Industry observers say that although South actors do have barriers like language and culture gap, with rising popularity and reach they too can bag big endorsement deals

e4m by Mansi Sharma
Published: Sep 2, 2022 9:08 AM  | 7 min read

Every discourse around Indian cinema is now centered around one burning question – has South Indian cinema become bigger and more profitable than Bollywood? A look at the numbers may hint at a possibility – in 2019, as per reports, Bollywood’s share in domestic box office revenues stood at Rs 5,200 crore, while South Indian films earned Rs 4,000 crore. There was a complete reversal in 2021 with the latter dominating box-office revenues at Rs 2,400 crore, and Bollywood standing a distant second at Rs 800 crore. Even in 2022, seven out of the top ten grossing films are from the South, IMDB data shows.

But as South Indian movies get an edge over Bollywood and create a bigger pan-India impact, can the Southern stars replace the Bollywood biggies from the world of brand endorsements? 

The beginning of a change 

While earlier, too, there have been actors from the South who made it big in Bollywood, this time the rise of OTT and changing consumer behaviour have helped the South Indian actors in getting recognition for their works in their own language. Viewers are able to connect with the stories better and so with the stars. This has created a lot of potential in the brand world as well, which wants to rope in fresher faces with a stronger audience connect. 

MATES Dy. General Manager Kumar Siddharath says, “There has been a shift in how brands and marketers viewed south Indian stars.  I think the biggest factor has obviously been the commercial success of South Indian films not just in India but also internationally. Brands keenly follow public perception when they make any decision. As South Indian films take over the mainstream imagination of India, we’re going to see more of these superstars represented in global and national brand campaigns.” 

In recent years, actors like Allu Arjun, Samantha Ruth Prabhu, Vijay Devarakonda and Rashmika Mandanna have become quite popular among the brands and have started bagging national-level ads too. 


 A gradual process albeit 

While some of the South Indian actors have started climbing the ropes when it comes to national-level brand deals, it will take some time for them to be as successful as Bollywood actors, say industry observers. Factors like language and culture gap can’t still be neglected fully. However, as the content industry grows, this gap could be filled by the immense popularity and reach these actors can attain. CEO and avid marketer Nishit Nanda says, “Not just within India, but globally, talent across the world is being given its due - whether it be Japanese stars, Spanish celebrities, Korean heartthrobs or African actors. The world is falling in love with actors all over again but in a way that is global. Within the Indian context, the new generation of crossovers, remakes and regional content has made taste a matter of access which is evolving rapidly so yes, a few years down the line, from a marketing perspective I foresee a wave of change not just at the box office but also at brand valuation and deals when it comes to South-Indian heavyweights who will be at par with Bollywood.” 

Moreover, South Indian stars, historically, have refrained from associating with brand deals. In the early years, actors like Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan categorically refrained from taking up brand deals. And so might be the case for a lot of new superstars. Business Head Arushi Gupta notes, “To perceive this situation as other actors having an edge over them would be wrong. Prabhas, Allu Arjun, and the others have their national presence, You and I both can’t deny that. The one thing people tend to forget sometimes is that all influencers can be actors but not all actors want to be influencers. Not running campaigns could be a personal choice as well. Stardom is also effectively a factor of exclusivity, hence stars tend to shy away from brand collaborations or endorsements risking the loss of their exclusivity.” 

The number game 

While South Indian actors seem to be getting more popular than several of the Bollywood heavyweights right now, they are still far behind in the social media game. Top Bollywood actors like Alia Bhatt (69.7 million), Deepika Padukone (68.7 million), Akshay Kumar (63 million), Ranveer Singh (41 million), Kartik Aryan (26 million), have a humungous number of followers on Instagram. On the other hand, the numbers, comparatively, are not shiny enough for the top south Indian crop of stars like Rashmika Mandanna (33 million), Samantha Ruth Prabhu (24.2 million), Allu Arjun (19 million), Vijay Deverakonda (17.3 million) and Mahesh Babu (8.8 million). 

Today, most brands take into consideration the following on social media before signing an ambassador agreement and that’s where these stars need to put in a lot of effort now. 

Gupta states, “Each one of the actors, be it Bollywood or Kollywood, has the power to be impactful and carry out brand campaigns but the measure of impact between a personality from the south is not yet as much as those from the north. The reason behind this, according to my opinion, is that Influencer Marketing as a concept kickstarted way before up north than it did here. Yes maybe as a few years go by the gap will close but right now I’d say there is a preference when it comes to choosing an influencer for a Pan-Indian reach. Again, it also lies in the eyes of the beholder. It can depend on how the audience perceives it.” 

An analyst believes that this could also be the reason for the pay gap when it comes to brand deals amongst Bollywood and South Indian stars. According to them, while the top endorsers from Bollywood are currently charging anywhere Rs 7-15 crore for an endorsement deal, the South Indian actors are getting Rs 2-8 crore for the same, even at a pan-India level. The social media post charges have an even bigger gap as they are a function of reach, they added. 

Siddharath agrees, “I'm sure some of the south Indian stars will be able to stand at par with Bollywood actors when it comes to brand deals. (But) Bollywood stars are extremely good at curating their individual brand image. South Indian stars are going to have to compete with them on that battleground.” 

What the future holds 

There is no denying the fact that there is huge headroom for growth when it comes to south Indian actors taking a pan-India brand deal, and one which is very much possible to fill. As Siddharath says, “We are currently seeing a transitory phase where the world is taking notice of the potential of South Indian films and stars in capturing the imagination of audiences. If they are able to do it consistently with enough individualistic flavour, brands will definitely come knocking. The potential is definitely there.” 

Nanda agrees, “As brands, we need to think big when it comes to market evolution. We cannot stick to “safe players” if we want to keep the industry growing. With the right kind of vision backed by aggressive marketing and promotions, it is possible to reinvent the rules of engagement given that the audience greenlights it. With a customer-first approach to appeal in mind, I think creating stable and bankable brand equity with diversity is possible.” 

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Clear Premium Water ropes in Hrithik Roshan as brand ambassador

The packaged water brand seeks to elevate itself as a brand with this association

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 2:13 PM   |   1 min read


Clear, the packaged drinking water company, has roped in Hrithik Roshan as their brand ambassador.

"Clear is already a well-established national brand, but I am confident that the association with Hrithik Roshan will boost our aspirations to emerge as a pre-eminent brand," said Nayan Shah, Founder and CEO of CLEAR PREMIUM WATER.

Commenting on the association, the actor said, "I am excited to join CLEAR, one of the country's most preferred and premium water brands, in its journey to encourage people to drink safe and mineral-rich water. Together, we will promote a healthy lifestyle with CLEAR's premium products while working towards greater concerns like sustainability and environmental conservation."

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Parimatch Sports brings in Dinesh Karthik as brand ambassador

The cricketer will collaborate with the brand for creating an apparel line

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:42 PM   |   1 min read

Dinesh Karthik

Parimatch Sports has announced that Dinesh Karthik will be its brand ambassador. The wicketkeeper-batter, who plays for the Bangalore`s team in the IPL, will collaborate with Parimatch Sports to create an exclusive line of apparel for the Indian market, to be tentatively launched during the competition.

Commenting on being appointed brand ambassador, Karthik said, “I’m thrilled to be associated with Parimatch Sports, which I am confident will soon be sharing space with the known names in sports attire. Because it’s an upcoming and youthful brand, it’s the perfect fit for me, for I feel I still have a lot to offer the game and to my team-mates. I can’t wait to be in the dugout again for The Premier League, and to show others that age is only a number.”

The Parimatch Sports is a sportswear brand dedicated to all sports enthusiasts passionate about top–quality athletic clothes. Those who strive to take their sports experience to the next level and express their champion identity through clothes Parimatch Sports brand that represents unparalleled style, exceptional comfort, and strong winning spirit.

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PUMA has always had a digital strategy much before COVID: Abhishek Ganguly

Ganguly, Managing Director, PUMA India, and South East Asia, lets us in on the sportswear company's strategy to ahead in the time of digital disruption

By Tanzila Shaikh | Mar 20, 2023 1:38 PM   |   4 min read


PUMA entered the Indian market in 2006, much later than competitors like Nike and Adidas did. However, within a decade, the sportswear brand captured the market, giving rivals a run for their money. 

In the digital era, when brands are pulling out all stops to stay relevant, PUMA is also trying out different marketing tactics to cater to the shifting needs of the new-age consumers, especially those hailing from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In an exclusive chat with e4m, Abhishek Ganguly, Managing Director, PUMA India, and South East Asia spoke about staying ahead in the time of digital disruption.

The edited excerpts from the interview 

How has Puma been keeping its business relevant?

There is not one answer to this. There are various ways to keep up with the relevancy. First and foremost is the marketing funnel, one needs to appeal to the consumers in a language that they find relevant, and the time of putting the product in front of the consumer to buy has gone. One needs to have a story and a narrative around the brand. We have not come up with a campaign that is just copy-pasted because we are a global brand, as connecting with the Indian audience always requires the language that they understand. 

To be relatable, the channels also play a very important role whether you walk into our stores or it is online. Digital is not just a convenience medium today it's quite so that one needs to create the right experience for the consumer. 

How is PUMA connecting with the GenZs?

Every generation comes with different expectations or behaviour, their approach is very different. The young audience wants to express and be a part of a community, brands that are able to provide a platform where consumers can come in and exchange an expression and connect and build community, and in that process and delivering a message works well with the younger audience.

This audience is are also looking for a purpose around social causes our environment resonates a lot with young audiences. Convenience is also one of the factors today The E-Commerce mechanism as well as the payment mechanism has made life so much easier and young audiences today are starting with convenience. So Genz consumers seek relatability, being a part of the community, are inclined towards purpose-driven brands, and expect convenience.

With Anushka Sharma and now Harmanpreet Kaur as brand ambassadors, what is the messaging that PUMA wants to convey?

We are very focused on having the right kind of opinion leaders, especially women opinion leaders associated with us like a partnership with Mary Kom. Off late we’ve signed up more as a brand which is becoming larger we are trying to stay relevant with the various consumer segment. We want to provide a platform for women to come and express especially in India, for example, in our campaign Proper Lady well women came and expressed themselves breaking gender stereotypes. For years cricket has been called a gentleman's game and now it is changing, we are trying to enable this change to become faster. 

How did PUMA navigate the post-covid era in terms of business?

Before Covid, we have been in India for as long as 13 years. In the last three years including Covid time, we have doubled the sales seen during pre-covid times. We have always had a digital strategy not just during Covid times but for the last 5-7 years. 

How are you leveraging the tier 2 and 3 markets?

We are opening more stores and we will continue to do that for accessibility. e-commerce is obviously helping us to penetrate the market. In the last 3 years, we have grown about 4% point of our share from the non-tier 1 markets. We have almost 490 stores and a lot of them are in tier 2 and tier 3 cities.

How much is the online and offline business in these figures - segregation in percentage?

56% of the business comes from physical stores, whereas 44% comes from various digital platforms.

Who has been more impactful for PUMA --  micro or macro influencers?

The truth lies in between as both are very important; it also depends upon your business scale. A very solid influencer strategy other than the selection and execution and the kind of content that goes out is to check credibility. Credibility should be really standing what your brand stands for. 

What's the marketing strategy lined up for the year?

Our choice of channel will be digital and given the kind of demographic profile of our market, it is very important for us to be there. We are going to every channel which is relevant right from search platforms to OTT platforms even news platforms, and sports platforms.

Check out more by clicking here to watch what Ganguly said about Indian audiences and sports.

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Infectious Advertising appoints Ashish Naik as Executive Creative Director

Naik has earlier worked with agencies like Ogilvy, FCB Ulka, and Saatchi & Saatchi  

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:32 PM   |   1 min read


Ashish Naik has joined Infectious Advertising as Executive Creative Director. He has spent a large part of his career with Ogilvy, Mumbai. He has also had stints at FCB ULKA, Everest, Contract and Saatchi & Saatchi.

Naik has created campaigns for brands like Cadbury, Perfetti Van Melle, Fevicol, Amul Macho, Gujarat Tourism, Hindustan Pencils, Fiat, Castrol, Franklin Templeton, Essar, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Hindustan Times, among others.

Speaking on his appointment, Naik said: “I look forward to creating some spectacular work with Ramanuj, Nisha and the team. I believe I will be working with the best at Infectious.”

“Acquiring top talent is the simplest growth hack. We are fortunate to get a creative leader like Ashish in our team. Apart from being a super talent, Ashish is an affable and warm personality who shall surely create work that will be Infectious. We wish him every success at Infectious,” added Ramanuj Shastry, Nisha Singhania and Siddhartha Singh - Managing Partners of Infectious Advertising. 

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PNG Jewellers signs Madhuri Dixit as brand ambassador

The actor will be with the brand for two years and feature in the brand’s ad campaigns, starting with Gudhi Padwa

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:13 PM   |   2 min read


PNG Jewellers has announced the signing of Madhuri Dixit as its brand ambassador for the next two years. Madhuri will represent the brand globally and across India. She was previously the brand ambassador for PNG Jewellers for a two-year period.

Madhuri will feature in PNG Jewellers' upcoming advertising campaigns, social media content, and other brand promotional activities, starting with the Gudhi Padwa campaign.

"We are delighted to have Madhuri Dixit as our brand ambassador, and we look forward to working with her over the next two years," said Saurabh Gadgil, Chairman and Managing Director of PNG Jewellers.” Our association with Madhuri goes back a long way. She and her family have been our customers for many years. She is still India’s sweetheart and a dancing diva beyond competition. Her values are aligned to ours as well. This association will help us to strengthen our brand's image and consolidate our position in the Indian and global jewellery market. Her presence in our ecosystem is an invaluable asset as we move into the next phase of growth. PNG Jewellers will be launching at least 5 more stores in the next financial year."

Madhuri Dixit said, "I am honoured to be associated with PNG Jewellers, a brand that is synonymous with craftsmanship, tradition, and elegance. I have always admired PNG Jewellers' stunning jewellery collections, and I am excited to be part of their journey once again. I look forward to representing the brand and connecting with PNG Jewellers' customers worldwide!"

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Tata AIG hands over social media mandate to Social Panga

The Mumbai unit of the agency will be handling the social media management for Tata AIG

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 1:04 PM   |   1 min read


Social Panga has won the integrated marketing mandate for Tata AIG.

The agency will be handling the creative communication for social media for the Tata AIG brand.

Riaan Rodrigues, Senior Vice President - Digital Business & Marketing, at Tata AIG said “As a company, we understand it’s important to have an insurance cover to mitigate one’s risks. We believe that creating a deep engagement with our customers over the digital platform is vital to ensure they understand the various insurance solutions that we offer. We want to strengthen our positioning while emphasizing on creative standards and have found a good fit with the Social Panga team. We are confident that our partnership will help us both create a positive, long-lasting brand image for us in the coming years.”

“There is so much scope to make Insurance as a category an interesting one & we are going to make an attempt towards the same. Super excited to work with Tata AIG to make the conversations around insurance a little more fun and impactful for people. While keeping ourselves aligned with Tata AIG's tone, Social Panga will work to make content in a more fun and palatable way.” said Himanshu Arora, Co-Founder, Social Panga.

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Yatra says 'Bindas plan kar' in new campaign with Delhi Capitals stars

The digital marketing campaign will include 3 digital video commercials featuring popular faces of the Delhi Capital – Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia, Alice Capsey and Tara Norris

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 20, 2023 12:15 PM   |   2 min read


Yatra Online Limited ("Yatra") has rolled out their latest campaign - 'Jab Yatra hai toh kaahe ka dar, #BindaasPlanKar' to offer stress-free travel to its customers. The campaign is focused on the cancellation protection feature available on which ensures a smooth yatra for travelers despite any pesky disruptions or unconfirmed plans. Cancellation protection is an insurance policy offered by ‘Liberty General Insurance Ltd’ for the customers of Yatra booking flight tickets on Yatra’s website, mobile site, and mobile app. This product facilitates customers to claim the reimbursement of flight ticket cost applied in the event of cancellation of the flight ticket.

To back this latest offering and drive adoption, this digital marketing campaign will include 3 digital video commercials (DVCs) featuring popular faces of the Delhi Capital – Shafali Verma, Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia, Alice Capsey and Tara Norris. All three DVCs focus on apprehensions that travelers have in booking their travel in advance and how the feature of cancellation protection addresses the concern.

Travel planning can be stressful, especially with the unpredictability of circumstances. Yatra Online Ltd aims to address this pain point by offering a solution that allows travellers to plan their trips without worrying about end-moment cancellations.

Commenting on the cancellation protection feature and the digital films, Dhruv Shringi, Whole-time Director and Chief Executive Officer, Yatra Online Limited said, “We understand that travellers want to explore the world, but unforeseen circumstances can lead to cancellations. With a cancellation protection feature and #bindassplankar, we aim to provide a safety net for our customers, ensuring that they can travel with confidence. The expression of our campaign is a portrayal of our continued dedication to offering a carefree experience to our consumers. Travellers have evolved preferences and we are excited to introduce a flexible, comfortable, and cost-effective feature for their travel planning.”

The #bindassplankar campaign can be a game-changer for the travel industry, providing customers with a unique and valuable feature that has the potential to set apart from its competitors. The cancellation protection feature is available on for all domestic flights. The #bindassplankar campaign intends to make travel planning stress-free and convenient for all Y

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