Bollywood stars' race for endorsements sparks image fears

Tue Aug 10, 2010 11:54am EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - Bollywood stars may jostle for roles on the silver screen but they are also vying for other lucrative deals -- company endorsements -- with celebrity branding surging in India but fears the race is out of control.

In a rapidly expanding market, nothing makes a product stand out better than a familiar face and Bollywood stars can promote from 10 to 15 products a year, making $1 million plus from each deal which can far exceed their earnings from movies or TV shows.

Take Bollywood A-lister Amitabh Bachchan, one of India's biggest stars and the lord of endorsements. He has endorsed everything from a premium suit brand, India's largest selling auto brand, cement, cold cream, chocolates, to hair oil.

Shah Rukh Khan, another of India's top leading men, endorses Tag Heuer watches, Pepsi, a fairness cream and an hair oil.

A recent article by Indian magazine Open estimated these actors each earned about $30 million over five years in endorsements as brand ambassadors are seen as a good way to get high visibility in a short time in a huge, fragmented market.

But in one of the world's most competitive markets, big names are entering endorsement deals at such a rapid pace that critics say it is almost at random, with no thought to their image or the brand.

"Everyone just wants to make money. It's plain greed. Most Indian brand ambassadors look at it as a business, a short term thing," said Anirban Blah of Kwan Entertainment and marketing solutions, a firm that manages Bollywood stars Ranbir Kapoor and Genelia D'souza.

There was a time when cricketers and other sports stars starting notching up deals alongside actors but the tide has again shifted toward the stars of the big screen and television with the country obsessed with Bollywood and glamour.   Continued...

<p>Bollywood actress Neetu Chandra poses for a picture during the launch ceremony of a dance academy in Mumbai December 12, 2009. REUTERS/Manav Manglani</p>