Fresh breath comes at a high price! Mouth freshener brands in India are shelling out up to Rs1.5 crore on celebrity endorsements, with big names like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, and Hrithik Roshan having been part of the trend. Even Hollywood star Pierce Brosnan got in on the action. Almost half a decade back he was earning a whopping Rs15 crore for a two-year deal with pan masala brand Pan Bahar. While Brosnan like Amitabh Bachchan and some others later distanced themselves from these brands, the trend of celebrity endorsements for mouth freshener brands shows no sign of slowing down.
Let alone slow down, the celebrity endorsement bandwagon is constantly adding new members. The latest to jump on board are cricketers Virender Sehwag and Sunil Gavaskar, who have signed up with Kamla Pasand for their latest IPL campaign. This is perhaps the first time cricketers are endorsing a pan masala brand.
In spite of all the public resistance and trolling that generally follows after a celebrity endorses a pan masala brand, the temptation of a fat pay cheque is too tough to give up said experts. “Endorsement fees start at Rs1.5 crore for these brands. The fees go up when a brand approaches an A-lister,” said an industry insider.
N. Chandramouli, CEO at consumer analytics and brand insights agency TRA Research said, “When celebrities endorse products like pan masala, betting sites and the like, it is surely a matter of lucre, and not conviction for the endorser.” “Brands which are in such dubious products also know which endorsers are willing to compromise, and most times the money is so big, that it's an 'offer that can't be refused'. However, it is ASCI's responsibility to ensure that such dubious products and services are not promoted so blatantly by endorsers,” he added.
Talking of rules and restrictions, advertising through most forms of media is prohibited for tobacco brands. However, mouth freshener brands that do not contain any form of tobacco fall in the food category and are free to run ads for the same.
The biggest magic of pan masala brands is in their marketing strategies. Pan masala companies are allocating a significant portion of their marketing budget towards celebrity endorsements and partnering with major events, such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), where they are also among the biggest advertisers.
According to recent TAM data, pan masala was the second-largest category in both IPL 15 and IPL 16, with a more than 100% increase in share this year, reaching 15%. KP Pan Foods, a Lucknow-based supplier of mouth freshener, meethi supari, and herbal saada pan, was among the top five advertisers in both seasons, and a new brand from this category, Rajshree Silver Coated Elaichi, was one of the top five advertisers in IPL 16.
Down memory lane
The journey from 'Baratiyon Ka Swagat Pan Parag Se Kijiye' to ' Bolo Zuban Kesari' has been a long one. Cricketers might be the new additions to the pan masala family but the film industry has always been a category patron when it comes to endorsements.
Starting from Ashok Kumar and Shammi Kapoor to Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar, an actor known for his healthy lifestyle- every one of them have stepped out of their comfort zone at some point or the other to endorse these brands.
Many times it has been a bumpy ride. Akshay Kumar was heavily trolled when he joined the Zuban Kesari tribe. So much so, he had to issue a statement that said, “I am sorry. I would like to apologize to you, all my fans, and well-wishers. Your reaction over the past few days has deeply affected me. While I have not and will not endorse tobacco, I respect the outpouring of your feelings in light of my association with Vimal Elaichi. With all humility, I step back. I have decided to contribute the entire endorsement fee towards a worthy cause.”
He is not the only one though. Amitabh Bachchan too has walked the same road. Days after his ad with a pan masala brand was aired he terminated his contract with the brand.
While celebrities dissociating from such brands have seen an uptick in the recent past, there is no stopping them from getting new ones on board. Ajay Devgan, Tiger Shroff, Mahesh Babu, Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh, Hrithik Roshan have all endorsed pan masala brands.