Looking to emerge from Maruti’s giant shadow in India, Suzuki Motorcycles has turned to Salman Khan to create an awareness for the brand ahead of the launch of its first commuter segment mobike Hayate next month.
Even though it has been present in India for close to a decade, the market is still ignorant that Suzuki, a household name for cars, also makes motorcycles and scooters. The firm now believes Chulbul Pandey (the character played by Salman Khan in Dabangg) would help lure consumers to its fold especially in rural markets. “Maruti Suzuki is a giant in India and people often compare us to them and are unable to imagine that Suzuki can also make two wheelers,” said Atul Gupta, vice-president (marketing and sales), Suzuki Motorcycles India. “It is a big decision to have Salman Khan as our brand ambassador and we think he will be instrumental in turning the tide in our favour.”
In fact, the Korean auto major's association with Khan for 14 years is by far the longest standing endorsement deal ever in India.
“It has been an extremely fruitful and long standing association,” said Nalin Kapoor, group head-marketing, Hyundai Motor India. “When we came into India, we needed a face and Shahrukh Khan was perfect for us. It has worked like a dream for us and fortunately has maintained his super-stardom in all these years.”
Not many of these associations however, have been as successful. The only time when Maruti roped in a brand ambassador in Amitabh Bachchan for its MPV Versa back in 2001, it came a cropper.
US car major Chevrolet’s association with Saif Ali Khan for its Aveo sedan has also not met with the desired success.
“An iconic face does help in drawing initial set of attention from consumers and at times query rates go up by over 50%,” said Piyush Pandey, executive chairman, Ogilvy & Mather. “But thereafter the product has to deliver else the endorser cannot do anything.”