Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan was recently signed on by Kolkata–based hosiery major Rupa & Company Ltd to endorse its “Macroman” brand of innerwear. While innerwear might not have featured prominently on Roshan’s preferred-brands-to-be-associated-with list, the offer was apparently “too good to refuse”.
The Bollywood actor, who also endorses brands such as Sony Ericsson, Hero Honda Karizma, John Players and Tata Sky, was paid more than Rs10 crore for this association, said a senior executive from a leading agency associated with the deal, who didn’t want to be identified. Both the company and Hrithik’s father, Rakesh Roshan, who manages his affairs, declined to comment.
While this is not the first time Rupa has signed on a Bollywood star—it has used actors Govinda, Sanjay Dutt and Saif Ali Khan to endorse its brands in the past—it has never paid so much money for a celebrity endorsement. “While the return on investment may not always be phenomenally high, it does go a long way in establishing the brand and creating higher visibility and recall, which are crucial in the face of competition,” says Vikash Agarwal, brand president, Rupa & Co Ltd.
This sentiment is echoed across product categories as more companies invest in creating stronger brands with a little help from celebrities. A case in point is that of Mumbai-based textile and apparel major S Kumars Nationwide Ltd (SKNL), which is associated with several celebrities. SKNL claims it registered a 40% spurt in sales of its Reid & Taylor brand after signing on Amitabh Bachchan as its brand ambassador in 2003. More recently, the company signed on actor Sushmita Sen to endorse Carmichael House, its brand for furnishings and upholstery, and actor Shah Rukh Khan to endorse the Belmonte range of suitings. And it is likely to choose a young celebrity to endorse its brand of Reid & Taylor garments very soon. “In the clothing and textile business, strong brands are everything. Not only do they allow for premium pricing, but also help penetrate markets,” says Nitin Kasliwal, MD and vice-chairman, SKNL.
Bank of Baroda’s experience with a celebrity endorsement has also been positive. Its association with cricketer Rahul Dravid played a big role in pushing “our 26 million customer base created over the last 98 years up by three million in two years”, according to Dipankar Mookherjee, deputy general manager of the bank.
While the use of celebrities by big companies was common in Indian advertising, now even the smaller companies are signing on celebrities, both from Bollywood and the sports world. “Small and medium enterprises are using celebrities in the hope that such associations will help them catapult into the big league,” says Afsar Abbas Zaidi, director, Carving Dreams Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. The company manages endorsements for Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan, Ajay Devgan, Kajol, Saif Ali Khan and Bipasha Basu, among others. “Small brands use celebrities to boost their image, whereas larger brands use them to create associations,” says Hemant Mishra, senior vice-president, JWT.
STAR POWER AT WORK:
|Amitabh Bachchan||Rs3-5 crore||Cadbury, Reid and Taylor, Dabur, Parker Pens, Sahara City Homes, Nerolac Paints, Damas, Binani Cement, Emami|
|Aamir Khan||Rs5-6 crore||Titan Watches, Coca-Cola|
|Hrithik Roshan||Rs4-5 crore||Hide and Seek, Tata Sky, Rupa Innerwear, Acer, Hero Honda Karizma, John Players, Sony Ericsson|
|Abhishek Bachchan||Rs3-4 crore||American Express Cards, LG Electronics, Motorola Phones, Big FM, Omega Watches|
|Shah Rukh Khan||Rs4-6 crore||Tag Heuer, Hyundai Santro, Belmonte, Videocon, Compaq Presario, Diageo, Pepsi, ITC Sunfeast|
|Sachin Tendulkar||Rs5 crore||ITC Sunfeast, Boost, Future Group, Pepsi, Visa, Canon, Reliance Telecommunication|
|Preity Zinta||Rs1.5-2 crore||Hyundai Santro, TVS Scooty, BSNL, Head and Shoulders, Tata Tea, Rexona, Go Air, Godrej, Cadbury|
|Rani Mukherjee||Rs1-3 crore||Cadbury, Chevrolet Aveo, Good Knight, Vatika, Dabur Amla, Anu Sarees|
Such is the craze for celebrities that companies which cannot afford big stars (they, afterall, command hefty price tags. See graphic) are roping in wannabe celebrities. And media agencies are now looking for celebrities beyond Bollywood and cricket. Percept Holdings, a leading media, communications and entertainment company in India, recently consolidated its celebrity management units—Talent Management and Celebrity Management Services—to form Percept Talent Management. The new entity will look at roping in popular social activists, sportsmen (other than cricketers), musicians and even well-known film producers and other personalities.
One can see a barrage of television commercials featuring television stars such as Smriti Malhotra Irani of popular Hindi TV serial, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Playback singer Himesh Reshammiya promotes DJ&C, Pantaloon Retail’s denim apparel brand.
The rush among companies to rope in celebrities has resulted in a stupendous growth in the size of the celebrity endorsement market. The industry, estimated at Rs200 crore in 2005, grew to Rs300 crore in 2006 and is likely to touch Rs1,200-1,500 crore by 2010. The major chunk—around 80%—of this money, however, still goes to Bollywood and cricket stars.
But observers say hiring top-notch celebrities doesn’t always spell success. “While the use of celebrities definitely brings positive results, it’s the pre-work of selecting the celebrity which is important. The question is: Does this celebrity stand for the future of the company?” says Sanchayeeta Bhattacharya, national director, MindShare Insights. A recent study conducted by the group, titled Celebz, shows that even a celebrity-endorsed brand can fail to connect with consumers. A case in point is that of Kansai Nerolac Paints Ltd, which signed Amitabh Bachchan to endorse its paints. When asked which brand Bachchan was associated with, around 80% of respondents participating in the study answered Asian Paints, which is a rival of Nerolac Paints. The Maruti Versa campaign also failed to strike a chord despite Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan backing it, as most consumers expected a larger than life car, much like the actors endorsing it.
Experts say if advertisers are to extract the true value of celebrities, they should use them as brand ambassadors, rather than getting them to do one-off commercials. “More often than not, we see celebrities being used as a model in the ad campaign, rather than as an ambassador for the brand. Such associations fail to make the right impact on consumers’ minds,” says Mahesh Ranka, GM, Relay India, a unit of the Starcom Mediavest Group.