WHY AMITABH BACHCHAN SHOULD NOT BE INCREDIBLE INDIA BRAND AMBASSADOR. WHY SALMAN KHAN SHOULD NOT BE RIO OLYMPICS BRAND AMBASSADOR.

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/

NOW THAT IS NOT AT ALL ‘INCREDIBLE’!

He is a good actor, in fact, one of the finest India has ever produced. He is known for choosing his roles sensibly and he has consciously created an image for himself that conveys the feeling of a self-made identity with some gravity.

That is for masses and he, no doubt, is a mass hero.

What he does in his personal life and what are his beliefs are things strictly falling in his private domain. Yes, like all human beings, he is susceptible to err, and we should not make a fuss about it, if it does not infringe on rights of others and if it does not speak for something that stirs the social pot.

And, in his public life, he has not done anything like that. Yes, the row over his intolerance remarks was something that he could have avoided given the sensitivity of the subject and the mass outreach of his words. We can say that in speaking so he didn’t consider many things but that doesn’t give us right to blame him or question his patriotism.

We may agree or disagree with his viewpoint but his worries were right even if he overreacted – because it happens. It is in human nature – to react and overreact on social developments with potential to disturb your personal life – at a time when we are facing very real danger of disturbed social balances on religious lines in different pockets of the country.

His fans love him. And his fans are from every religion. And every religion in India has made him a mass hero. And he has curated a self-conscious, clean image around it.

And that makes him a good face for the ‘Incredible India’ campaign – the award winning advertisement series that really impresses you with its everything – from concepts to storyboards to shooting to fine tuning to finished products.

So it was quite a letdown to hear yesterday that the government had removed him as the ‘Incredible India campaign ambassador’. Though the government today denied doing so (removing) saying the contract with the agency that was running the campaign had ended and as Aamir Khan was contracted to the agency, his association with the campaign came to an end.

Well, if that is so, that is so wrongly timed – especially immediately after the row over his ‘intolerance remarks’ and his virulent criticism by some BJP leaders – the party running the Government of India. And some of them did it even today.

The Government, instead, could have avoided this controversy. In fact doing so would have sent a positive message that the Government was open to different opinions (and difference of opinion) and was working holistically on concerns of everyone (including Aamir Khan’s) – even if it felt the concern was misplaced. It is the government’s duty to make its citizens believe so (that such concerns are misplaced).

Alas! It was again an opportunity missed!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/