Celebrity endorsements in advertising are not new but the fact that celebrities are moving beyond advertising is. Even in advertising, their presence appears to be on the rise with even brands that never used celebrities before rethinking the use of celebrities now. Nokia, that has never used celebrities before, recently signed an endorsement deal with Shah Rukh Khan.
Manish Porwal, CEO, Percept Talent Management, comments, "India loves its celebrities. We are in the middle of entertainment era and at the onset of an attention economy. Put the three together, and you cannot help but acknowledge that celebrities from the entertainment – including sports – world are an important tool to draw and keep consumer attention. Most brands realise this; organisations that earlier pooh-poohed use of celebrities in brand communication are now having a second think." Porwal recently quit media agency Starcom to join Percept Talent Management (PTM).
Media professionals estimate the celebrity endorsements business size at around Rs 300 crore and growing at 25-30 per cent per annum.
PTM, which has just finished an exercise in estimating the current size of the market, puts the figure at Rs 400 crore, of which it expects to cover Rs 120 crore by March 2008, up from around Rs 80-85 crore last year. According to FICCI's projections, the celebrity endorsement business will grow to Rs 2,000 crore by 2010.
That's very possible considering that youth, India's majority consumer population, is tending to draw its icons from Bollywood and sports, as numerous researches show. And while Bollywood and cricket remain the largest contributors for celebrity endorsements, the space is getting bigger. Jeet Banerjee, CEO of celebrity management company Gameplan, says, "Newer avenues are clearly visible. IPL, for example, will provide a platform for many young talents to emerge as celebrities. Formula 1, to hit the country soon, will also help discover some more sports stars. And Sania Mirza is already a celebrity."
Another interesting development is the expanding use of celebrities beyond plain vanilla brand endorsements through advertising. In-film brand placements are expanding, the latest example being Reebok's presence in
, starring John Abraham. Games developed around celebrities, events using celebrities, live show appearances and even speaker engagements are actively being explored. Add to that the verticals of weddings, tourism and animation.
Shailendra Singh, joint MD, Percept Holdings, says, "The market is maturing beyond just brand endorsements in advertising. I am talking of possibilities like a game based on John Abraham or a whole comic book featuring SRK." He adds that the optimism in the celebrity management business is also owing to the ongoing expansion of the telecommunications and music businesses.
The optimism in games developed around stars is not misplaced, feels Rajesh Rao, CEO, Dhruva Interactive, a game development company.
"Celebrities in India have a high level of visibility. Since typically, a Bollywood movie has only a window of two weeks to recover the costs or make money, tapping alternate revenue streams certainly makes sense," he says. The key, he adds, is to find the right fit between the celebrity and the game. The game has to stand on its own, star value apart. As a thumb rule, since games are played for fun, comic capers lend themselves to gaming more.
Carving Dreams Entertainment, another celebrity management outfit, points to yet other avenues for celebrity opportunities. "A celebrity can have a brand line based on him/her and can earn a share of the proceeds. Film co-production deals can also be struck wherein apart from being an actor, the celebrity also dons the role of a co-owner," says Afsar Zaidi, Director, Carving Dreams Entertainment.
Even as existing celebrity opportunities expand beyond advertising, the growing India success story will soon throw up new celebrities in business, art, design and other areas, is the consensus. As Porwal says, "This is the business to be in."