Leading beverage company Coca-Cola India has once again roped in popular actor Salman Khan as the brand ambassador for its cola brand, Thums Up. Khan, as will be remembered, was one of the popular faces of the brand a few years ago.
While the recent campaign took a new direction with the Thums Up man not 'chasing the thunder' but living it, the long-standing imagery of the brand of being adventurous, energetic and masculine still stands. Presumably, that is where the re-association with Khan works well; considering the actor's brand image by himself and secondly, in view of the fact that he endorsed a rival drink, Mountain Dew from the PepsiCo stable, that pretty much portrays itself on similar lines with its 'Dar Ke Aage Jeet Hai' tagline.
Announcing the association, Atul Singh, president and chief executive officer, Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, in a press statement says, "Salman's appeal cuts across age groups and socio economic strata, just like Thums Up. The brand's core values of masculinity, adventure, thrill and excitement will further be amplified by Salman's association and will help us take the brand to the next level. We are excited by the prospects that lie ahead for the brand and our partnership with Salman."
Additionally, Coca-Cola India has also signed an agreement with Being Human - The Salman Khan Foundation to jointly promote, conceive and execute charitable and social activities.
The association could be analysed further but at the end of the day, it is a simple rule of riding the popular wave on the part of a brand. It may be recalled that Thums Up moved from Salman Khan to Akshay Kumar (around the early 2000s) when Khan was involved in a few incidents that did not help his public image.
"It is a part of the madness. It ensures variety. And at the end of the day, an endorsee is only as good as his last three hits (in the case of movie stars)," he says.
"There is a certain timeliness to the whole thing. Brands associate with successful stars. When stars are not so hot, they are dropped. Both brands and stars are promiscuous when it comes to this," adds Bijoor.
So, if Khan delivers a few turkeys in the future, how would a brand react to that? Not very surprisingly, Bijoor notes. "There is no charity among brands. Nobody stands with a loser," he states.
Anirban Chaudhuri, independent business strategist, Strategic Planning and Conversation Enablers Group has a different yet simple take on this. According to him, these are brands that are much ahead of their ambassadors in terms of brand equity.
"The brand imagery of Thums Up is much stronger than its endorsees. The ambassadors merely enact, unlike brands that borrow equity from endorsees," Chaudhuri says.
He further notes that the development might just give a refreshed identity to Thums Up, a new talking point for the masses, given Khan is a popular celebrity.
"Ambassadors and lines may change but 'Toofani Thanda' has been around for too long. The brand in itself is too strong a device. The celebrity angle here could be possibly seen as an entertainment device maybe," says Chaudhuri.