Hopefully Amitabh Bachchan’s relationship with Heinz India will fare better than his ambassadorship did for Pepsi now the Bollywood screen legend has been signed to endorse its health drink, Complan.
Under the deal, Bachchan will be seen as the taakat ka bhoot (spirit of strength) in Complan’s new TV commercial, which focuses on the importance of strength.
There is no doubt that The Big B is an iconic figure across all generations in India today, this being one of the reasons why Heinz snapped him up, according to the company’s regional managing director.
“It was an unanimous choice by our consumers. He is a living legend, evokes a lot of trust and embodies strength. It is the first time that Complan has associated with celebrities for endorsements,” said Seema Modi.
“We are absolutely confident that his association would only further enhance the brand’s equity and help us appeal to a wider audience.”
This is not the first time that bewigged Bachchan has been called on to align with a product, and the actor is a staple during commercial breaks on Indian television. Among his many current celebrity endorsements are a cement company and the state of Gujarat.
But one of his best known tie-ins didn’t end so well, according to a blog post in the Financial Times this month.
In 2002, the veteran was called on, alongside cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and fellow actor Shah Rukh Khan, to utter the words “Pepsi, yeh dil mange more” (This heart desires more) in an intensive advertising campaign for the drink.
But it has only recently come to light why his ambassadorship for the brand came to an abrupt halt in 2005 when Bachchan revealed his secret to a group of business students in India.
He recounted to the audience how a young girl had approached him to ask why he was advertising a drink her teacher had called “poisonous”.
“‘When you say to drink Pepsi, I feel you are doing something wrong’,” the 71-year-old actor recalled the girl saying. “I just felt if this is an impression that we create in the mind of a possible buyer, I must not be doing it. And I stopped endorsing Pepsi.”
In response to the story breaking, Pepsi has remained upbeat. In an email to the FT, a spokesman said: “Amitabh Bachchan is a living legend and it is only natural for employees of any organisation to look up to the brand ambassadors. Pepsi is loved by millions of Indian consumers.”
The story marks the second occasion in a month when we have learnt of a superstar breaking away from a brand—rather than the more common opposite scenario.
At the end of January, Scarlett Johansson severed ties as a goodwill ambassador for NGO Oxfam after picking up flack for endorsing Israeli company SodaStream, which operates in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
But it was refreshing to hear how the tremendously wealthy Bachchan personally vets all his potential endorsements in a form of due diligence before accepting an offer, rather than just having his people talk to the brand’s people before signing on the lucrative line.
“When I meet [potential partners], I make my own judgment of who they are. I look to see their economic statements, their audited books… I ask them why they want me, I look at the product,” he told the Indian business students.
In light of this, Heinz must have been pleased Bachchan accepted the Complan deal, but it will also be aware how The Big B is not afraid to take away his plaudits if he is not happy with the product.