Aamir and Snapdeal: Will #Appwapsi make brands intolerant of celebs?

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Nov 26, 2015 19:15 IST
Snapdeal gets blowback from Aamir Khan’s comments against intolerance.

Snapdeal advertised its #DilKiDeal campaign with Aamir Khan by encouraging people to follow their heart. It is ironical that when the Bollywood star did exactly that and expressed his views on rising instances of intolerance in the country, the actor and the e-tailer were both caught in the ensuing backlash.

Khan was at the centre of a raging debate after he expressed “alarm and despondency” over the rise in incidents of intolerance in the last six to eight months. He also said he and his family contemplated leaving India.

Enraged by his comments, people hit out where it hurts most. If protests and burning his posters were not enough, people vented by deleting Snapdeal’s app. Hashtags like #Appwapsi, #BootOutSnapdeal and #SayNoToSnapDeal started trending. The Snapdeal app was downgraded after unfavourable reviews.

Read: Flipkart backs Snapdeal in Aamir Khan row

While celebs have faced the heat when brands have gone down (Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachchan were sent notices for endorsing Maggi noodles recently), this is probably those rarer occurrences when a brand is facing a backlash due to the personal opinion of the celeb endorsing it.

At the last count, brands faced a backlash when the star endorser got embroiled in crime of some sort. The chief reasons were extramarital affairs, drug and doping related issues or being involved in crimes. Tiger Woods watched as $2 million in endorsements vanished post his acknowledgement of marital infidelity in 2009 as he was dropped by Gatorade, AT&T, Gillette and Accenture.

Hindu Sena activists carry the effigy of actor Aamir Khan during their protest against him following his remarks over growing intolerance in the country in Noida on Wednesday. (PTI)

This was the amount lost by Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius as well after he was charged for killing girlfriend Reeva Stenkamp. The brands which dropped him included Nike and Oakley.

Lance Armstrong lost $1.5 million annually after he was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

Closer home, naysayers believed Salman Khan’s pending cases may kill his career and his endorsements. On the contrary, Salman’s film profits and brands he endorses have only gone up. The actor has over 10 accounts in his kitty, including the image-sensitive Thums Up which had formerly dropped him, Revital, Wheel and Suzuki.

Aamir, at present, seems not to be so lucky. If the controversy dies down, he may go unscathed but right now Snapdeal is trying to distance itself from Aamir’s opinion. “Snapdeal is neither connected nor plays a role in comments made by Aamir Khan in his personal capacity. Snapdeal is a proud Indian company built by passionate young Indians focused on building an inclusive digital India. Every day we are positively impacting thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers in India. We will continue towards our mission of creating one million successful online entrepreneurs in India,” said the e-tailer’s statement.

Fearing a backlash, Godrej and Coca Cola – two other brands that Aamir has endorsed in the past, distanced themselves from the star. “Aamir Khan’s contract with Godrej ended in March 2014. The said current views are his personal & in no way connected to us,” Godrej tweeted about their former brand ambassador. In a statement, Coca-Cola India, said, “We have had no commercial association with Aamir Khan for several years and it is therefore, out of bounds for us to comment on his remarks.” Aamir has also endorsed Tata Sky and Titan.

Aamir Khan featured as the most trusted film celebrity after Amitabh Bachchan in the 2015 edition of the annual Brand Trust Report. He moved up two notches in the 2015 list from 2014, when he featured on the fourth spot.

The third Khan in the brand galaxy, Shah Rukh Khan, was also in the eye of the storm recently for speaking about the climate of intolerance. As SRK commented on the larger issue and phrased it carefully, he escaped the kind of repercussions Aamir has faced. Despite some political mudslinging, the larger public opinion was in Shah Rukh’s favour.

Reacting to the controversy, Flipkart CEO Sachin Bansal tweeted: “This is a flawed logic. Brands don’t buy into brand ambassador’s personal opinions. Snapdeal shouldn’t face this.” The questions is: How would you explain this to the social media troll, waiting in droves to pounce upon its target? It wants to mock and maim, the more the merrier.

Bollywood’s top endorsers...

Amitabh Bachchan: Being the biggest superstar in the country, the actor has been part of several advertisements. From Dairy Milk to Maggi, Pepsi, Dabur Chyavanprash and Daawat Basmati rice, Big B has featured in all the ads.

Shah Rukh Khan: Bollywood’s romance king has been endorsing Videocon, Emami, Tag Heuer, Dish TV etc.

Salman Khan: The actor has endorsed Revital, Thums Up, Wheel, Suzuki etc.

Akshay Kumar: The Khiladi Kumar has Micromax, Rasna, Honda and Dollar in his kitty.

Deepika Padukone: She is the face of Tanishq, Nescafe, Parachute, Kellogg’s etc.

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