Brand bind theory

Celebrity endorsements are not only about big monies and big brands, but also about clauses and conditions. CT on these starry contracts...

Hollywood star Charlize Theron was recently asked to cough up $20 million for wearing the wrong watch. Wondering why? Theron reportedly violated the endorsement deal with watchmaker Raymond Weil by failing to exclusively wear the costly wristwatch in public. When Diary Milk and Pepsi were dragged into controversy over the issue of insects and pesticides being found in their products, their brand ambassadors went about the damage control exercise by mediating with the public and convincing them about the purity of these products.

Going by the face of it, our celebrity brand ambassadors seem tied down by their contracts and are forced to put the brand before all else in many a situation.

A brand ambassador is always exclusive to a product in a category. That’s more likely why a celebrity sells as an ambassador. Veena, CEO of Naturals, puts it subtly, “Stars are known faces. They have an image which, when coupled with our brand’s quality, helps our products sell. Deepika Pallikal is young and popular. People can relate to her and that is the reason we roped her in to endorse Naturals.” People buy products after they see the pretty faces of celebrities endorsing them. Says Radhika, sales head of a popular retail beauty outlet, “Beauty products which have been endorsed by Indian celebrities like Katrina Kaif, Priyanka Chopra and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, sell better here when compared to products that have been endorsed by foreign faces. The difference isn’t big, but is clearly visible.”

Jerry, an ad director, says that while finding celebrities to endorse your product is important, it is even more crucial to choose the correct person to endorse a brand. “Tamannaah’s smile was remembered in the Sun Direct commercial while Shriya’s grace and royal looks made her the ideal choice for the gold palace ad. Cartoon characters were the best ambassadors for Amul,” he says. Shriya opines, “I endorse a product only after deciding if it suits me or not. I don’t agree to endorse a product just because I am being paid for it. It’s also our face value that counts. We become an excuse for people to choose a product.” Actor Prem, who has endorsed two brands of dhotis, jokes, “One would think I only wear dhotis. I have appeared in the advertisements of Premiere and Sibi dhotis. I was able to get the attention of the buyers because I looked good in those garments.” What really matters is the image that the public has of a star. Shankar Narayan, brand response head of a communication network, says that the sales figures of his brand shot up after a popular actor agreed to become their brand ambassador.

In most cases, there are no written bonds that are signed. “Precisely put, there are no written agreements. It is just a verbal agreement that exists. We, at Naturals, have an agreement with Deepika Pallikal. According to it, we reserve the right to use her image to promote our products and she gets the right to get a free makeover whenever she wants. Deepika’s endorsement of the product helps people look at Naturals through her eyes,” says Veena.
At the launch of the Esprit outlet in the city, its brand ambassador Madhavan was seen sporting Esprit clothing- jacket, trousers et al. Shriya also says that it is out of her own interest that she sports her brand in public. “In that particular span of time, I avoid using any other product. It is simply because it would not do any good to the product’s or her image. It is not out of compulsion, it is just a matter of feeling good,” says Shriya.
It is not only about being seen in public with the ‘correct’ brand but also about not being seen with wrong add-ons. Says Chaya Singh, “Though I signed a contract for a year with a gold house, the contract allowed me to endorse other products too. The only catch was that I should not be endorsing the products of another gold house, which I think is fair.”