Ananya Pathak

3 years after Kohli gave up Pepsi, Dhoni bats for ITC's YiPPee!

Need there be a connection between the endorser and the product?

ITC's instant noodle arm Sunfeast YiPPee! recently roped in cricketer M S Dhoni (who was dropped from the BCCI's list of centrally-contracted players earlier this year), as the face of the decade old brand. Dhoni, whose running between the wickets was credited top-notch until his last inning, features in the two 30-second ads of the instant food brand.

The endorsement by the cricketer takes our thoughts back to the time when Virat Kohli, another cricketer known for his fitness quotient, gave up promoting aerated drink Pepsi, stating, “If I myself won't consume such things, I won't urge others to consume it just because I'm getting money out of it." It makes us wonder if Dhoni's diet chart includes the noodle brand that is now luring children to eat noodles, with the images of one of their favourite cricketers relishing it. But then, we also take note that Captain Cool has, in the past, endorsed Snickers and Pepsi, neither of which fall in the 'healthy' bracket.

We reach out to industry experts to get their opinion on the issue.

Sita Lakshmi Narayan Swamy, brand and consumer expert, says it is not necessary that there be a connection between the endorser and the product. “It's an age old thing in advertising to take actors/sportsmen based on their popularity. It is basically brands riding on famous personas, who have a large following and basically utilising their popularity to put their brand in the picture. More often than not, there is no direct connection.”

She goes on to mention that Dhoni endorses Indian Terrain, the clothing brand, with no direct connection established there as well. “In certain categories, for example, Lux which is endorsed by a film star, there is again the halo effect. It leaves an impression on the consumers that the beauty and glamour of the celebrity is because of the endorsed product and its use will also make them a little like the endorser.”

Swamy looked up Dhoni's food-plan on Quora and says nowhere does it mention the inclusion of noodles in the list of his healthy diet. “I am not saying he never ever consumes noodles. I myself am a fitness freak and don't normally indulge in fast food, but it works once in a while. It may not be a part of the cricketer's regular diet but once in a while, he might as well consume it, I am assuming.”

“The issue here really is, in the two films released by ITC, Dhoni is featured with children. We show our kids Popeye cartoons because he eats spinach and can build healthy eating habits in them. Children are easily influenced. They haven't reached the stage where they can make sensible choices about their food. They also get tempted very easily. Children will feel more and more justified in eating noodles because there beloved cricketer is consuming them in the ad. Marketers should be prudent about how they advertise to children.”

She says it's not a bad film but an unhealthy endorsement.

Ramakrishna (Ramki) Desiraju, founder and creative director, Cartwheel Creative Consultancy, who finds the story-line of the campaign sweet, isn't sure if the ads would serve their purpose. He says, “The brand here is trying to ride on the popularity of the cricketer amongst kids. More than about the connection between the endorser and the product, it's about Dhoni's fan base as a cricketer.”

He adds that the ads might work for now given that the cricketer is still active and will be playing the Indian Premier League (IPL). “But once he retires, kids will find new heroes. They'll have a new face to look up to, say Rishabh Pant or Hardik Pandya, who would be ready to replace him. There sure is clever punning in the ads about 'clean-bowl' and 'long inning', but I am not sure if Dhoni's face will lure kids to opt for the brand.”

He thinks the health concerns associated with noodles were a blip which smoothened out once Nestle's Maggi was given a clean chit a few years ago. “Also, the concerns were also probably limited to Maggi. I am not entirely sure if health is a heightened concern in the noodle category.”

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