Apparently, Saif Ali Khan has pipped SRK to the post as the most visible celebrity brand endorser in India. Ain? Shouldn’t that be Amitabh? The top 10 in this list features only two cricketers – Sachin and Dhoni. Not surprising, since of late, marketers have realized that a film star or even a TV star is a ‘safer’ bet than a cricketer as an endorser.
The larger issue is one of celebrity usage. Some feel that for marketers & agencies it is the easy way out and an excuse for not having solid ideas. Others (mostly those who control the purse strings – clients) feel that celebrities provide great mileage in terms of visibility & breaking clutter. I agree that celebrities can help gain brand acceptance. On the surface it can at the least create brand name familiarity. Factors like over exposure and weaving the celebrity into the brand idea are issues that can be addressed. Amitabh endorsing a zillion brands need not be a deterrent for someone else to consider him. If there is a brand fit and a way of using him cleverly to beat the clutter, it is still possible to get paisa vasool. In the US, Davie Brown Entertainment (DBE), an Omnicom Group Inc. agency provides marketers with a systematic approach for quantifying the use of celebrities in their advertising and marketing campaigns, through what is called Davie Brown Index (DBI). It claims to determine a celebrity’s ability to influence brand affinity and consumer purchase intent. In India, I doubt if there is an industry-wise standard to measure celebrity effectiveness – a lot of decisions are based on gut feel, the economics of the deal and post-campaign research.
On the point about film stars being a safer bet: I guess a nation’s emotions ride with the cricketer. If he fails in a single game, he is seen as letting down the nation. An ad that he features in, usually portraying him as superhuman, immediately following his failure tends to backfire. Add to it injuries and the like, you have too many issues to contend with (whatever happened to Ashish Nehra – wasn’t he on the earlier Samsung ads?). It is essentially a high risk, high returns game. Cricketers are idolized in a manner unlike a film star – they are seen as true heroes. On the other hand, a film star is seen as an individual delinked from any institution. If a film fails it is not seen as the star’s failure. A hit 3 months down the line reverses the fortune. Cricketers also have this opportunity but our fickle public takes in a failure in the harshest terms. And since national sentiments are involved betting on cricket stars comes with its own baggage. Speaking of cricket, will the stars of IPL carry this baggage? Unlikely. Maybe more of IPL will make us view the cricket stars differently – not just as those who represent the nation.