VIP or celebrity brand endorsement is a sensitive issue. And now it is being realized the world over to the extent of enacting legislations. Countries from America to Europe, even China are coming with stringent norms of who can endorse a brand. Even India is moving ahead in this direction positively.
The thrust behind such moves is to safeguard the consumer from misleading advertisements and thus products. On a larger canvas, it is about breach of trust because a consumer decides to buy a product a celebrity endorses based on his trust on the person that he believes reflects in everything associated with him.
That is the underlying common sense wisdom – the commonsense wisdom, that forces global brands to dissociate with brand ambassadors of global fame if something ‘not as per the norms’ happens – be it Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong or Oscar Pistorius or even Amitabh Bachchan back home.
They all had negatives happening in their lives when sponsors shunned them – because it would portray their brand in negative hue.
This commonsense wisdom applies on every branding exercise – especially when you are speaking for communities, societies, places or countries – in social spheres – in cultural spheres – in political spheres.
So, when India chooses an Amitabh Bachchan (though Bachchan has denied it now) or a Salman Khan to represent the country (and not some tangible brand) globally, you can only rue about it.
No doubt, Amitabh Bachchan are larger than life film stars in India and they have a sizeable following overseas, even if limited to the Diaspora Indians.
But they have their fair share of controversies.
If Amitabh Bachchan has had controversies like episodes of his political career and Bofors row, his claim to be a farmer to get farming land to tax evasion allegations against him and his name coming up as director in companies in tax havens, as the leaked Panama Papers suggest – Salman Khan is deeply entangled in court cases – ranging from hit and run killing and maiming people to kill animals to rowdy behaviour on display many times in personal and public life.
And that makes them imperfect for any branding exercise to represent India internationally. It is true that for Indian film industry, there will be no Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan and that is uniqueness of their respective brand appeals. But this appeal is restricted to commercial products only.
When it comes to representing India globally through an advertising campaign like the Incredible India, Aamir Khan should come first and not Amitabh Bachchan. Aamir Khan, the previous Incredible India brand ambassador who didn’t charge for the campaign, so far has had an impeccable personal and professional life and he is known as a socially conscious fellow.
The denial that has come from Amitabh Bachchan now, after the Panama Papers controversy, should have come earlier, when his names started doing rounds for the next brand ambassador of the Incredible India campaign. That would have enhanced his credibility. But he chosen to remain silent then, for reasons, though we can gauge, only he can clarify.
When it comes to representing India at the Rio Olympics this year, any sporting legend like PT Usha should be considered and not Salman Khan. Appeals like Salman Khan would compensate for popular appeal and youth connect do not hold any ground. Salman Khan was chosen as AIFF (Football) brand ambassador in 2009 but we know nothing has moved on the ground as far as Football’s popularity in India is concerned.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/