The practice of celebrities being used for rendering services other than performing their actual job as either an actor or an athlete, such as endorsements has proliferated over time.
Despite the cost and the risks involved with this technique of advertising, it is been used quite extensively in the present era.
Traditional wisdom suggests the importance of an exclusive product contract with the celebrity. Exclusivity comes with a high price tag and every year brands spend a huge amount of money for this purpose. Various companies are signing deals with celebrities in the hope that by using celebrities they can accomplish a unique and relevant position in the minds of the consumers.
Many companies employ multiple endorsers to connect with a wide range of customers and potential customers.
The major challenges with celebrity endorsements off late are:
• One star too many brands- Let’s look at the Indian cricket captain Mahinder Singh Dhoni. He endorses close to 16 brands. So if a prospect is to name the top brands Dhoni is associated with one would stop with 5-6.
• One product too many stars- Pepsi is a good example which has Ranbir Kapoor, MS Dhoni, and a host of other celebrities endorsing it. Similarly Coke has national as well as regional endorsements.
• Long association of a brand with a star- Sachin Tendulkar used to endorse Pepsi, and then he shifted to Coke but I still associate Sachin with Pepsi. Some associations are hard to break.
At one point, for example, Rolex used 24 golfers, seven tennis pros, four equestrians, three yachtsmen, two race car drivers, a skier, and a polo player to advertise its watches. And in 2009 alone, NFL star Peyton Manning endorsed eight brands.
The portfolio of brands endorsed by megastars is so wide that it largely dilutes a specific association with the brand. Last year Shahrukh Khan alone endorsed 25 different brands, ranging from home décor to skin-lightening creams and luxury products.
Subsequently brands in India are looking to develop distinct brand personalities and more meaningful engagements with celebrities – signaling a move from celebrity endorsement to genuine ambassadorship.
An example of a former star being recast to promote brands is Kajol, a leading film star who famously cut her career short to raise a family. As the face of Unilever’s Knorr soup, Kajol became the spokeswomen for the slogan ‘Tummy bhi khush, Mummy bhi khush’ (If your tummy is happy, so is mummy). Using Kajol’s media image as a dedicated and modern mother, Knorr had the credibility to introduce a new occasion to urban Indian households – the idea of 7pm soup, a nutritional snack for children before their main evening meal.
Sonam Kapoor, for example, has proven particularly attractive to brands due to her reputation as a style icon. She has become the face of L’Oreal and Electrolux, represented by both brands as a busy, modern, international woman to help the companies provide guidance and build intimacy with aspiring young women.
Similarly, Deepika Padukone and Genelia D’Souza – both popular for their cheeky attitude to traditional romance – have been used by Nescafe and Fast Track (Titan’s youth brand in India) to communicate a fresh and irrelevant attitude defining India’s Generation X.
Not many people can remember all the brands that a celebrity endorses and the chances of losing brand recall increases if the celebrity endorses multiple brands. For example, in case of Sachin Tendulkar people recall Pepsi, TVS Victor and MRF, but might not remember brands like Britannia and Fiat. Similarly, for Amitabh Bachchan, consumers remember ICICI, Pepsi, Parker Pens, Pulse Polio and Dabur. They might get Confused in the endorsement of Nerolac or Asian Paints. Thus, for multiple endorsements where the same celebrity endorses several brands, it boils down to the strength of the brand and the advertising content.
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