From men’s skin whitener Fair and Handsome to financial services firm Muthoot Fincorp Ltd, brands have latched on to Rajnikanth-starrer Kabali, which released on Friday amid much hype and hoopla.

A fairness cream or a financial company may not be relevant to the action-drama that Kabali is billed to be, but a movie’s genre or subject matter aren’t really factors that guide brand partnerships.

The lack of an obvious connect between brand partners and the subject of the film is not uncommon.

In December, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol-starrer Dilwale, an action-comedy, partnered with laundry detergent brand Ariel for an in-film placement. So did instant noodle brand Ching’s with Yash Raj Films’ psychological thriller Fan, also starring Shah Rukh Khan, earlier this year.

“I won’t deny that it happens and in most cases, it’s more detrimental than an advantage," said Rudrarup Datta, senior vice-president, marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures. “This usually happens when the focus is on short-term gains like generating cash revenue for the film or a brand wanting to tick-mark an ‘innovation’ using films on its list."

The short-term gains that Datta mentions refer to the wide reach and expected success rate of such big-ticket films. Dilwale, for instance, rode on the star power of its lead pair, collecting more than 148 crore at the box-office after being released in close to 4,000 screens across India.

Kabali, too, has released in nearly 3,000-4000 screens in India and more than 500 around the world in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi languages, and will be released in China, Thailand and Malaysia around September.

The return of a superstar like Rajinikanth to the silver screen after two years has added to the star value of the film, encouraging even Mondelez International Inc.-owned Cadbury 5 Star to make a beeline for associating with the movie.

Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive officer at branding services and consulting company Future Brands, said that in case of a blockbuster release like Kabali, the advertisers know that they will get a default reach.

“Kabali was very anticipated and by associating with the movie, we hope to get top-of-the-mind salience, excite our consumers and trade partners, thereby making the brand even stronger in our core market of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh," said Prashant Peres, director, marketing (chocolates), Mondelez India.

To be sure, star value is the single most important factor in drawing brands to a movie project. “From a brand’s perspective, the RoI (return on investments) is higher than a standard TVC (television commercial), because they know that a popular star will draw a huge crowd to the theatres. Hence, there is no sense of segmentation," said Kiran Khalap, co-founder and managing director at brand and communications consultancy chlorophyll, adding that movie associations are all about pure reach and minimum investment technique from the perspective of the brands.

For example, the high-profile Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone-starrer Tamasha was certainly seen as a lucrative opportunity for brand partner, Bharti Axa Life Insurance Co. Ltd. Factors like fit with the central theme of the film weren’t considered. The film was released across 2,100 screens and netted 67 crore in box-office collections.

To be sure, brands can associate with films in a number of ways, the most common being in-film placement, where a product is either being used or placed in the film. Brands also roll out movie-specific television advertisements which may be used to promote contests. Sponsor brands also find a place in the standees of the film posters during movie promotions across different cities.

All of Kabali’s brand tie-ups are of the generic promotional kind and not in-film placements.

But it’s not just about the movies or their reach. Advertising industry experts say that such associations may transpire because brands often sign up for bundled deals.

“So, apart from the in-film placements, they also get immense reach and visibility during movie promotions which happen across multiple cities," said Vandana Das, president, DDB Mudra North.

saumya.t@livemint.com

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