afaqs!

Suneil Shetty zooms off with Ford Endeavour

By Khushboo Tanna , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | January 22, 2009
The SUV from the Ford Stable has roped in actor Suneil Shetty as its brand ambassador

Bollywood & #BANNER1 & # actor Suneil Shetty is all set to endorse the Ford Endeavour, the sports utility vehicle (SUV) from the Ford India stable. This is the first time that the SUV will be associating itself with a celebrity.

Nigel Wark, executive director, marketing, sales and service, Ford India, says that the association has happened because Ford India has had a good year. The SUV segment saw an increase of 41 per cent in 2008, while the Ford Endeavour saw an increase of 45 per cent in the SUV segment. Ford India claims that the market share for Ford increased from 27 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2008.

Wark shares with afaqs! the reasons for signing a deal with Shetty: "Shetty is an all rounder - he is an actor, a producer and also an entrepreneur. He has a passion for SUVs and owns a couple himself. So, he makes a perfect brand ambassador."

A print campaign, conceptualised by JWT and featuring Shetty, is expected to be released on January 23. The campaign will utilise newspapers and general interest, lifestyle, travel and auto magazines. A small activity will be carried out in the Internet space, but the campaign will focus on print. Ford Endeavour does not intend to do a television commercial in the near future.

Shetty started out as an action hero, but, over the past few years, has developed a strong foothold in comedy. He owns a production house, Popcorn Entertainment, some hotels and a clothing line, Mischief. Will such a versatile personality work for the image of the brand, which is all about ruggedness and thrills?

afaqs! spoke to some brand analysts to check whether this pair would indeed drive away together into the sunset.

Jagdeep Kapoor, chairperson and managing director, Samsika, says that Ford has made the right choice with Suneil Shetty as he is known to have a passion for SUVs. Shetty is a down to earth person, very grounded and, hence, has a substantial fan following.

He adds that Shetty would be a misfit if the core value of the brand was elegance, as in the case of the Mercedes Benz. Since the SUV stands for adventure and ruggedness, Shetty is a good fit and the only challenge is how the creatives leverage the 'fit'.

Kapoor adds that the endorsement will not help Shetty improve his image in Bollywood, but it will definitely give him more visibility.

Nabankur 'Nobby' Gupta, founder, Nobby Brand Architects, agrees with Kapoor's line of thought. Gupta says that since Shetty has a macho image and a liking for SUVs, he is a good fit for the brand. He adds, though, that a better bet might have been a sports personality with a macho image.

Gupta says that Shetty will be accepted as the Ford brand ambassador by the masses because he is not a rising star who will take the attention away from the car. He will help the brand to retain its aura as Ford is itself a strong brand.