The popularity and good press earned by a celebrity brand endorser brings a lot of credibility to the brands he/she endorses. But what happens if a brand ambassador gets caught in a web of bad press and social media comments? In the wake of actor Salman Khan's conviction in the hit-and-run case, we try to figure out whether brands try to play safe when their endorsers are in the news for unpleasant reasons.
With Rs. 400-500 crore riding on Khan (movies and endorsements), the court verdict could be a big blow to the brands that have stood by him so far. These include beverage giant Thums Up, Chlormint,
Suzuki Motorcycles , Revital, Astral Poly Technik,Yatra.com, Wheel and Splash. Other than his movies and the brands he endorses, Khan also has his own clothing line - Being Human, and has been, till recently, the host of popular reality show, 'Bigg Boss' on Colors.
Can brands stand to lose if they continue to stand by him or should they look for a more credible face to endorse their products? afaqs! talks to brand consultants to understand how this development affects the brands Khan endorses and how they should deal with the situation.
Samit Sinha, founder, Alchemist Brand Consulting
Having said that, I would suggest the brands being endorsed by Salman to wait and watch out for public opinion. If they dump him, the decision may backfire - people may not like the brand for not sticking by him in time of his trouble. Just because one is sentenced to prison doesn't mean the public will turn against him. Look at Sanjay Dutt, for example. He has spent a lot of his recent time in jail, but he is loved by many in the country. Sometimes, you may be a legal offender, but still people may see you as a hero. It can also generate sympathy. Salman has only been convicted now; the perpetration of the act happened long back. He got a fair amount of bad publicity even then, but he carried on. His movies have been blockbusters and are loved.
Shubho Sengupta, independent brand consultant
A majority of Khan fans or followers who consume the products he endorses care much about what he has done 10 years back. This will be discussed on social media for three days and will fade away. India is a very insensitive country, where incidents like 'black buck' and 'hit-and-run case' keep happening and people tend to forget them. I might sound cynical, but because of this conviction the brands Khan endorses will be talked about more.
Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, Brand-Comm
So, while his popularity will take a beating, not all brand categories will pull out deals with the actor. There will no major immediate impact and, over a period of time, there will be positive stories about his philanthropy work and his own brand Being Human doing good humanitarian work which will work for him and also the brands he has been endorsing. But, if he doesn't do many film projects and stays away from the public eye then problems might spring up and advertisers might consider replacing him.
Manish Porwal, MD, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions
Most brands that fall in Salman's portfolio are the dare-devil or massy ones. Ones which, unlike in the case of Tiger Woods, can actually push the envelope and use the situation. Simplistically seen, they should stand with him and use this occasion cheekily to get attention and garner positive emotions towards Salman. Having said that, on grounds of reality - this is an extremely difficult and 'risky' strategy to execute. It can wipe off a brand's fortune in a day. It is easy for social influencers to target such a brand endeavour and make it a national wave against them. Simply put, they are consumer brands which are supposedly responsible and cannot favour something which is least controversial. It is not easy for them to show support in favour of someone convicted and hope for public sympathy to be with them. An odd irony that when Salman gets maximum news, his brand partners will have to desert him.
The most likely scenario for most brands Salman endorses, is to stay quiet and not use him or release a campaign till the dust somewhat settles. The second step then would be to quietly replace him or go with a non-celeb campaign. I am also sure that most have been preparing for this eventuality and are already ready with a back-up plan. The ones I definitely feel will move on fast are Thums Up, Suzuki, Yatra, Revital and Wheel.
Jagdeep Kapoor, CMD, Samsika Marketing Consultants
Cajetan Vaz, independent branding consultant
Unless the brand was talking about high-morals, it won't affect them. Whatever Salman Khan is endorsing, people know it is an ad and he is a brand ambassador. They don't see his personal life in the role he plays as an actor. If he was endorsing brands that stood for values or morals or society, or a brand like Tata that stands for trust, then yes, there could have been negative impact. But, if he is endorsing brands which talk about being daring and macho, I think for all you know it may just strengthen that image. The whole chatter is short-lived; India will forget about it soon. The negative impact will not be that bad. If he was talking something and doing something else, it would have been affected more.