Is it the right time for the Pepsi-Shah Rukh split?

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | March 03, 2009
After an association of more than 13 years, Pepsi and Shah Rukh Khan have bid adieu to each other. Many say it's because of Khan's growing years; while others point to failed price negotiations as the reason behind this divorce

The Pepsi-Shah Rukh Khan relationship goes back some 13 years, when he was not as big a star. Since then, the King Khan of Bollywood has grown in stature, and Pepsi, too, has transformed as a brand.

It has been a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties. While Pepsi cashed in on Shah Rukh's popularity, it also contributed to the star's youth icon image.

The relationship between the two has recently come to an end. In a recent media interview, Shah Rukh announced his divorce with the brand, saying sarcastically, "I am jobless now."

afaqs! contacted the Pepsi India executives, but they were not ready to comment on this split. However, sources confirm that the reason behind this separation is that as he grows in years, Shah Rukh no longer fits into the youthful image.

Instead, the cola brand now uses upcoming star, Ranbir Kapoor to continue its brand philosophy of Youngistaan.

A similar situation occurred when Sachin Tendulkar made way for MS Dhoni.

Considering Shah Rukh is still a huge draw among the youth, afaqs! asked the fraternity whether Pepsi made the right decision by replacing him.

Raghavendra Patnaik, chief operating officer, Cornerstone Sport and Entertainment, a company specialising in talent management in sports and entertainment, says, "With his strategic investments in platforms such as the IPL, television and media, and the synergies of the entire Red Chillies franchise; there is, perhaps, no one else in India, who has a more compelling command on the imagination of young consumers, which is very much the TG for Pepsi."

However, he is quick to add that the cola brand could have it own metrics to evaluate this.

Brand consultant, Vinay Kanchan believes that Shah Rukh is extremely popular with what Pepsi calls the "Youngistaan generation". However, he adds that there seems to be a move to showcase Youngistaan through icons from the appropriate age bracket, rather than continuing with older endorsers. Yet, he argues that as long as the latter inspire the younger generation, there is future in the brand association.

In its earlier campaigns, age was not a guiding factor in Pepsi's choice of endorsers - after all, till a few years ago, Amitabh Bachchan was a Pepsi endorser. Probably, the company has fine-tuned its strategies to suit the Youngistaan approach. Manish Porwal, chief executive officer, Percept Talent Management (PTM), says, "Considering the brand's communication agenda and pin-pointedness, Shah Rukh and the brand would be on two different planes."

However, he believes that the separation could be a result of differences in negotiating the final price.

There are many who stand by Pepsi's call. Anirban Das Blah, managing director, GloboSport, says, "I firmly believe that Pepsi has taken the right decision to part ways with Shah Rukh. If a brand is focussing on the youth, it cannot have a 45-year-old endorser. It ought to have youthful faces, which the consumers can connect with."

Blah adds that both Shah Rukh and Tendulkar continue to be icons for Pepsi. It's not about their professional expertise, but about their youth appeal. "Like Dhoni can't match Tendulkar in cricket, Ranbir Kapoor can't match Shah Rukh in Bollywood," he concludes.

Search Tags

© 2009 afaqs!