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Dipstick: Do international brand ambassadors really work for Indian brands in the Indian market?

In October 2013, Hollywood’s Hugh Jackman was the first international superstar signed by an Indian brand, Micromax. And this month, Tata Motors signed up soccer superstar Lionel Messi as its ambassador

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | November 16, 2015


Brands and the ad frat love brand ambassadors, and the Indian market is no exception. The bigger the star quotient, the better, budgets permitting. Bollywood superstars and top cricketers are selling virtually everything – from mobile phones to TV sets, from refrigerators to washing machines, from instant noodles to processed foods.

However, there was a change in the scheme of things when an emerging Indian brand, Micromax handsets, decided to sign on Hollywood superstar Hugh Jackman. The name made a splash in the media, even before the first campaign with Jackman rolled out!

And this month, Tata Motors made a big splash with the announcement that it had signed on football’s biggest name today – Lionel Messi – as its global brand ambassador. That is as big as you can get in the today’s brand endorsement game.

Considering that a brand needs very deep pockets to sign on names like Jackman and Messi, is it worth the fees? Do these brand ambassadors really have a connect with the local audiences? BestMediaInfo.com spoke to a few industry leaders to find out.

Lloyd Mathias Lloyd Mathias

Lloyd Mathias, Marketing Director, APAC and Japan, Hewlett-Packard:

It largely depends on a brand’s usage of the ambassador. Typically, global celebrities work across nationalities and can give a brand a much desired boost. Many developers have used global celebrities to sell their new properties. However, it is important for the celebrity to have a personality match with what the brand seeks to convey. Just using a celebrity for awareness and to break clutter will not work in the long run.

Another reason for using global celebrities by Indian brands is to leverage their international appeal – to make the brand seem more international. This is a valid tactic, but in the long term a brand’s values are built on a host of issues.

Shripad Kulkarni Shripad Kulkarni

Shripad Kulkarni, Managing Director - India, Vizeum:

Micromax using Hugh Jackman, I thought, was a stroke of brilliance. Top Indian celebrities typically have around 15 brands that they endorse at a given point of time. So, using international celebrities is a clear clutter breaker. Besides, a brand looking at rejuvenation, like Tata Motors, using Messi is a right strategy to showcase the new avatar of Tata Motors.

Micromax also did justice in the gatefold creative units they used, and the treatment was classy and consistent with Jackman’s imagery. My hunch is they let the creatives do their job and not interfere with it, though some entrepreneur driven brands tend to do this often.

Any strategy must first be clear and correct, and celebrity is only one treatment element. Because they had a product, Canvas, befitting the claim made, using Jackman helped Micromax build the credibility that the brand lacked. Mobile phones are clearly perceived as high-end technology products and Micromax, despite being a decent sized brand, lacked credibility in this respect. Using Hugh Jackman, to my mind, helped the brand gain trust and broaden its acceptance from the middle class to the upper class.

Ashish Bhasin Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO – South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network:

At the end the whole criteria is who fits well. When a brand chooses its brand ambassador the whole idea should be how well he /she would work for the target audience. Like Lionel Messi goes fairly well for the kind of audience that Tata Motors caters to and same goes with Micromax. Also, quite a few Indian brands including Tata Motors have gone global as well. So it is a combination of how well a brand ambassador would go with the target audience.

Harish-Bijoor-new Harish Bijoor

What takes a concern is how creatively a brand uses the ambassador. What is important is to snap the intrinsic positive features of the brand fitting in well with the ambassador. It is extremely important to understand the fact that when one puts in huge money on such noble entities, it is important to put in deep efforts on the creatives as well. If this is worked upon well, then the ambassador would work well for the brand.


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