Decoding brand 'Kapil Sharma'

MUMBAI: Between his outrageously funny jokes, bang on comic timing and 'put-you-at-ease' smiles, comedy king Kapil Sharma has redefined the genre on television. His quick rise to fame flummoxed several in this entertainment industry as it didn't follow the generic tropes - a strong Bollywood background, political backing or affluent beginning, Sharma had none.

But it is this 'guy next door' image that drove his fandom in the country and compelled brands with big marketing budgets to turn and take notice of him back in 2014.  The last two years saw Sharma's career take some topsy-turvy turns - his heights to fame with the his show Comedy Nights With Kapil, the tiff with Colors TV, and his subsequent departure from the channel, his hiatus from the small screen and finally his re-entry through Sony with The Kapil Sharma Show - and yet brand Kapil Sharma is going strong and how!

As per the data audience research organisation Ormax shared with, Sharma tops the non-fiction characters in Ormax Characters India Loves list. Averaging the data for six months between October 2015 to March 2016, Kapil Sharma of Comedy Nights With Kapil has bagged 36 per cent of popularity, beating Salman Khan at second place with 16 per cent, Rannvijay of the Roadies fame at third place with a 4 percent share, Rannvijay ties it with Anoop Soni from Crime Patrol; and Sushant Singh from Savdhaan India at fourth place with  3 per cent.  Here percentages denote the popularity share of each person.

"Because of his 'non starry' appeal, his fan base is basically a family audience including women above thirty five years of age. Within the Hindi speaking market (HSM) his core strength is mostly in the northern states. What Kapil has achieved with this fan base is quite remarkable. There have been comedy shows before his, but none could become a household name such as he has," states Ormax Media founder Shailesh Kapoor.

Kapoor also points out that even though the show went off air, Sharma remained the most popular non-fiction character in the category by quite a large margin. His popularity is evident from the anticipation in the nation for his come back to the small screen with his flagship The Kapil Sharma Show on Sony, which he is producing under his banner of K9 Productions.

Kapil Sharma fame isn't confined to the television industry alone. His fame competes with the likes of Saif Ali Khan and Sonam Kapoor. He is the only television star who has featured in Forbes India's top 100 Celebrities list in 2015 at rank no 27 when it comes to popularity, beating Saif Ali Khan, Ranveer Singh, Yo Yo Honey Singh, and even Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for that matter. The same list reports his net income as Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million). While that's a jaw dropping figure for any average entertainer, Sharma has a long way to go to rank high when it comes to net income per year.  But no, there is no reason to fret for Kapil fans. Judging by how brands are enamoured with him, it's only a matter of time before he joins the prestigious Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) club.

"When it comes to brand value, Kapil Sharma is one of the few personalities who came without any established filmy baggage and made it really big. In spite of him taking a short hiatus off screen, there hasn't been a dent in his brand value," says multi-platform entertainment management company Exceed CEO Uday Singh. "It is amazing how the hysteria and euphoria around Kapil Sharma remains constant since Comedy Nights With Kapil became a hit. I can't quantify whether it's a Rs 100 crore, but the familiarity and the relativity that Kapil Sharma gives off to his audience is what makes him a good choice for brands who want to reach the masses," Singh explains.

So far every brand that has sought Kapil's help to boost its brand message has cast him as a middle class or upper middle class man, or a guy next door character rather than the star Kapil Sharma is. In 2014, Sharma starred in a digital campaign for Honda Mobilio in which he played a salesman.  With a success story of garnering millions of views, it was a perfect fit. As per media reports Honda India paid him Rs 4.5 crore (Rs 4.5 million) for the deal.

But it was his partnership with online classifieds website OLX India that truly took off his endorsement career.  OLX India signed him on for Rs 2.5 crore (Rs 25 million) approximately for the campaign. "When the deal between Kapil Sharma and OLX was inked back in 2014, several eyebrows were raised as it was considered too big for a television star like Kapil," revealed a source who was close to the development. Back then entertainment agencies facilitated the endorsement deals for Kapil Sharma, like most of the celebrities in the industry. Now, Sharma has taken it upon  

Like most celebrities, Sharma locks these endorsement deals on a daily rate basis for the number of days he needs to commit to the campaign in a year. Having said that, the norm varies from brand to brand, depending on the nature of the campaign.   Being a live performer allows Sharma to be flexible with what he offers to the brands, and his contract may include live engagements and event shows. That naturally adds to the quote he gives the advertiser. As per an industry insider, Sharma demands anything between Rs 3 to 4 crore (Rs 30 to 40 million) from a brand for an endorsement.

On an average, Sharma works on eight to ten different brands at a given time. These have included TVS Tyres, Policy Bazar, Micromax, PaisaBazaar and more. The number is likely to go up once his show goes live again on Sony, on 23 April, provided it makes the mark that it promises to.

"Obviously, if he has to maintain his brand value he needs a show on air. While one or two months haven't affected the value of brand Kapil Sharma, if he doesn't have a show for a long time, the audience might move on. Therefore just like a movie star needs to keep coming with movies, a television stars need to have at least one show on air at a time," Kapoor shares.

Before one-upping his past show with more gripping content remains important for Sharma, brand Kapil Sharma has more pressing matters to handle as The Kapil Sharma Show goes head to head with one of the biggest brands and events in India, the Indian Premier League. Only the coming Thursday's BARC data will tell us if  Sharma has walked out of his show's premiere with his head held high. His fans - of which there are many - won't really care. They were the ultimate winners as they got a chance to engage with Kapil and team and roll over with laughter over the weekend .

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