Bollywood celebrities don't just peddle dreams but also dream homes. Real estate developers are now banking on the star power of the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai to endorse their projects.
Deepika Padukone is the latest to join these marquee names. Aspire Real Estate, a Dubai-based developer, has signed up the actress as its brand ambassador. "We are targeting India, and Deepika will add to our brand equity," said an Aspire spokesperson.
The trend of celebrities - from tinsel town and outside - endorsing real estate projects started around two years ago.
So while big banner draws such as Shah Rukh, Aishwarya, Bachchan or even sarod maestro Amjad Ali Khan and his sons represent the likes of DLF, Sahara and Omaxe, a host of smaller developers too have started signing up celebrities to cut across the clutter.
Thus, Pune-based Brahma Developers uses actress Katrina Kaif to promote its SunCity project, Chandigarh-based LVL City has signed up cricketer Yuvraj Singh, Chadha Group has former cricketer Kapil Dev, AEZ group has actress Perizaad Zorabian while small screen star Shweta Tiwari of Kasauti Zindagi Ki fame was the brand ambassador for Gaursons Developers.
Omaxe executive director Vipin Agarwal says star endorsement was imperative in the highly competitive realty sector.
"The celebrity not only gives the product greater recognition among the target audience but also helps the brand to connect with the customer, thus increasing the brand acceptability," said Agarwal.
"All real estate campaigns focus on similar amenities. The tag 'world class amenities' is now clichéd," he said. "Stars help a project stand out in an overcrowded market."
Also, developers feel that hiring a star can give a boost to the sale of residential projects, with the sector witnessing a slowdown of up to 25 per cent since January this year.
The trend is not restricted merely to big developers or the metros.
Kochi's Jairaj Projects has roped in Malayalam film star Jayaram; SRK Constructions has singer Yesudas, cricketer Rahul Dravid endorses Skyline Housing, while another cricketer, S. Sreesanth, promotes the Kochi-based Mather Builders.
Sternon Real Estate, also of Dubai, has Mandira Bedi, TV anchor and actress, as brand ambassador for Magic Hills Residences, a project aimed at non-resident Indians on the Mumbai-Pune Highway.
Interestingly, the stars themselves seem to be falling for these campaigns, buying prime properties in Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar has bought a Rs 350 million property in the elite suburb Bandra, Shah Rukh himself is reported to have shelled out Rs 560 million for an office space in Khar, while actor-politician Vinod Khanna has bought a 2,500 sq ft apartment at Malabar Hill for Rs 350 million.
There are many who aver that stars are being signed up more in an attempt to build brands than to propel sales.
"A project sells on its own strength, so basically celebrities are adding to the developer's brand equity," said Kunal Banerjee, head, marketing and corporate communication at realty major Ansals API.
As a result, realty sector advertisement too is booming: according to AdEx India, a division of Television Audience Measurement (TAM) media research, campaigns on television during 2007 have jumped 73 percent and in print, 82 per cent.