With 17 brand endorsement deals in her kitty - most of them in the last 18 months - Deepika Padukone is on a dream run. With each success at the box office, marketers are betting higher on her.
Padukone's repertoire of brands and genre is as wide ranging as her movies. She endorses everything - from banking and financial brands to real estate to lifestyle and fashion to FMCG, apparel, and automobiles. Throw in tabs and the cup is full - well, almost.
At present, Padukone is associated with 17 brands (See table). Many of these brands such as Coke, Axis Bank, HP, Van Heusen, Melange by Lifestyle, Kellogg's and ACE Real Estate have hired her in the last 18 months. Today, Padukone commands the highest brand endorsement fee among her female counterparts. Her charges range between Rs 6 crore and Rs 8 crore, say industry sources. She was recently in news for charging Coca-Cola Rs 6 crore per year for the endorsement in which she was seen with Farhan Akhtar. It is a two-fold jump over last year.
Geetanjali Bhattacharji, CEO, marketing service audit, Spatial Access, says, "Studies show that around 30 per cent of consumers would consider the purchase of a brand based on a popular face. A higher percentage would associate with a brand if the celebrity were actually linked to the brand message in some way or the other. If you closely examine the brands that Deepika is associated with and their messages, it is evident that brand custodians are crafting communication around her celebrity traits."
Cereal brand Kellogg's, for example, hired Deepika for representing great health and healthy habits. HP hired her to promote HP Slate6 and HP Slate7, which enable multi-tasking for users, a situation that is similar to the life of the endorser who has been a successful model, actor and badminton player at various stages of her life. Melange by Lifestyle took her on, as she was perfect as the one who represents style.
Another advantage Padukone offers to brands is her affinity with southern India because of her roots. It helps her straddle the North-South divide. Harish Bijoor, consultant, marketing, says, "South India is a very big consumption point, and a large part of our GDP comes from there. She delivers what brands need to get in there."
Padukone represents a strong, self-made, aspirational, politically correct, healthy and happy image that the youth aspires to acquire. Daughter of India's first All-England badminton champion and former world No 1 Prakash Padukone, Deepika began modelling during her college days and went on to win recognition with awards such as the Kingfisher Fashion Awards and Idea Zee Fashion Awards. Later, she was chosen as the brand endorser for Kingfisher Airlines.
Her cinematic career started with a Kannada film, Aishwarya (2006), before she made a stirring debut in Bollywood opposite Shahrukh Khan in Om Shanti Om (2007). She has also done music videos with Himesh Reshammiya. Though her first Bollywood film was a hit getting her the best debutant award, several that followed did not do well until 2012, when she was paired opposite Saif Ali Khan in Cocktail. Since then, she has not looked back.
Hiring a successful Bollywood star as endorser is a no-brainer for brands if they have the money. Films and cricket are the country's twin obsessions. Banking on this, Axis Bank recently hired Padukone and launched its latest campaign with the positioning, 'Badhne ke kai naam hai'. The series of ads shows how the actor not just endorses the brand, but also uses and understands different products such as forex cards, apps, home loans and credit cards. Says Rajiv Anand, president, retail banking, Axis Bank, "She is contemporary, young and self-made. Just as Axis Bank reaches over 1,700 towns, her brand also resonates through geographies."
Not a one-horse race
It has not been an easy road for Padukone. In the brand endorsement space, she is in a neck-to-neck battle with Katrina Kaif (who, in the brand numbers game, is actually ahead of Padukone), Kareena Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.
According to TAM data (January 2014-June 2014) provided by the subscriber, the total GRPs on endorsements by film actresses was 45,623, of which 23 per cent was accounted for by Kareena, 22 per cent by Padukone, 21 per cent by Katrina and 20 per cent by Anushka. The other two actresses in the race are Priyanka Chopra and Aalia Bhatt.
Kapoor, however, has bagged fewer endorsement deals in the last 6-12 months compared to Padukone. It is expected that the latter will be ahead of the competition sooner than later what with many big releases slated for later this year. Padukone's forthcoming releases are Finding Fanny Fernandes with Naseeruddin Shah and Dimple Kapadia (in July) and Happy New Year with Shahrukh Khan (in October). In 2015, she will star in movies such as Window Seat with Ranbir Kapoor and Piku with Amitabh Bachchan.
Kapoor of Ormax Media points out that Kaif still rules. "As per Ormax Stars India Loves, Katrina remains the No.1 heroine amongst male audiences by some distance. But Deepika recently took the No.1 position amongst women. Hence, she would be effective with products aimed at women." Ormax Stars India Loves is a monthly track conducted by Ormax Media, to find the favourite Bollywood male and female stars across 29 cities from 4,000-5,000 cine goers.
Box-office success dictates the appeal of a celebrity to a brand and Deepika is no exception. Bhattacharjee of Spatial Access believes that new deals could be affected if she is not marketed well. "If Deepika is marketed well and the strategic connect established strongly with the brand, they will bet on her unless a Tiger Woods kind of controversy takes over. Otherwise, her endorsement wave will ride as high as Kareena's did despite the latter's failures at the box office," he predicts.
Kapoor of Ormax Media adds that Padukone's brand endorsement career cannot flop overnight. "It can happen over time, not with just 1-2 films. In any case, she is now picking her films well and it is unlikely that back-to-back flops will be a scenario for her to worry about," he says.
"Flops and hits are part of the game," says Bijoor, adding, "a flop or two does not change the status quo." In any case female stars have a typically short brand endorsement life of 6-8 years. "You cannot be a chooser in the brand endorsement game unlike films where you can reject a weak script that can destroy your image," says Bijoor.
Padukone, on her part, has chosen a strong character with every film so that audiences evaluate her on acting skills along with looks or style. Some of her much-appreciated characters in Bollywood are Veronica (Cocktail), Meenalochni (Chennai Express), Shanti Priya (Om Shanti Om) and Leela (Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela). If she continues in that vein, this promises to be a long reign.