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BW Businessworld

Brand & Banter

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"Tees maar, Khan! 29SlapsPending," says a Tweet on the micro-blogging site, Twitter. Shah Rukh Khan's headline grabbing and Twitter-trending slap may have shaken up a lot more than the person at the receiving end.

The moment of madness and the ensuing media frenzy post that incident, would have also send the shivers down the several brand managers who have put a million bucks on the star to endorse their brands. As images of an angry Shah Rukh storming out of a party organized to celebrate Sanjay Dutt's portrayal of Kancha Cheena in Agneepath splashed across media, overnight the affable SRK was looking more ominous than the villain Kancha, who's success they had gathered to toast.

For years, SRK's on-screen antics have endeared him to the millions of fans, stretching his appeal across the spectrum from the toddler to the grandmom. This naturally had a positive rub-off for the brands that took him on as an ambassador. Even SRK never let an opportunity pass to send the message across to his real audience, the ad agencies. In a pep talk to ad agencies at the AdAsia2011 summit last November, SRK told the delegates: "Brands in totality are an extension of myself. I wake up to the alarm on my Tag Heuer, check messages on my Nokia N7, sit on a D'Decor couch, slip into a Belmonte Suit, watch TV on a Videocon set, used my Linc pen to make notes for this speech, and I got energy this morning from a generous helping of Emami Sona Chandi Chyawanprash...." The Monday morning misadventure has certainly taken away a bit off gloss and sheen from that carefully cultivated appeal.

And it would not be very brave for a brand owner to back someone who could potentially turn into Bollywood's new enfant terrible. Globally, brands have steered clear of a certain Lindsay Lohan, unless you are a casino company like Bodog. Closer home, brands were not too keen to associate with Salman Khan when the actor was under trial in a blackbuck poaching case or when the car that he was allegedly driving mowed down people sleeping on a Mumbai pavement. The recent string of successes at the box office have ensured that Salman is back in the reckoning for brands. Mobile handset brand Blackberry was among the latest to have signed him on.

Shah Rukh, a star who has built his career on the back of not just the box office success, but also through endorsements, live shows et al, is too astute an ambassador to realise the dangers of his public display of anger. Perhaps the much publicized kiss and make up the following day with Shirish Kunder, the director who faced SRK's ire, was an admission of that.