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Will Salman Khan succeed to keep his brand value intact?

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MUMBAI: With over Rs 200 crore riding on the actor, Salman Khan’s brands and producers are as worried as the actor himself. After Mumbai Court’s verdict earlier today, Khan will be spending the next five years in jail, which inevitably puts a big question mark over his brand value.

Forbes listed Khan at the pole position in the list of top earning celebrity with Rs 244.30 crore and there are numerous brands, which have him as a brand ambassador. As the days ahead unfold, it remains to be seen if the verdict does impact the brands he’s associated with.

Khan has been associated with brands like Thums Up, Revital, Wheel, Astral Pipes, PN Gadgil Jewellers, Dixcy Scott, Relaxo and Suzuki. However, the media buying and planning fraternity they seems to have been prepared for the verdict, which was announced today.

Speaking to Indiantelevision.com, Helios Media managing director Divya Radhakrishnan says, “Brands were prepared for this. Salman didn’t commit the crime now and whichever brand has associated with him was aware of the fact that he may land up in jail any moment as the case was in court. On the question if this will impact brands; well, after knowing that Salman is accused of murder and illegal hunting, people gave him record weekends in theatres. I think that just about settles the argument.”

Another industry expert and brand manager with a talent management firm opines that the current judgment spelt a career-ending move for Khan. “There is a strong reason for brands to drop Salman Khan. Brands like Coca Cola, Suzuki or Unilever have all talked about an integrity and ethical based management style, social governance and social responsibility. They speak about being leaders in society. For them, to have a point of view and image and then also to have a convicted murderer as their brand ambassador, just doesn’t fit well.  If he continues as a brand ambassador, they will lose all credibility in terms of social integrity and leadership,” the manager says.

A media executive dealing with celebrity brand endorsements, on condition of anonymity, too remarks in the negative. Speaking about the outrage on social media, he says, “Yes, you will have a large number of people expressing their sympathies. That's the fan base and they and will support him. From their perspective, if he has killed someone and then bribed the driver maybe to take the blame, the person does not deserve to go to jail.”

Providing another insight, he adds, “Having to listen to what his supporters have to say is very polarizing. One section also strongly feels that he should go to jail and as a marketer you cannot have something polarizing. Yes, he has a fan base but it is going to antagonize the majority. Brands have no choice but to drop Salman Khan. They continued their association until now as the case was on-going and it was a matter of being innocent until proven guilty.”

On his expected appeal in the high court, the executive remarks, “He will appeal in the High Court but he bottom line is that he is guilty until proven otherwise.”

The advertising industry has always spoken aggressively about ethics and honesty. Echoing the same sentiments, a creative director of a reputed organization says, “As he has been officially convicted for breaking the law, it would be moral suicide for brands if they still stick to Salman Khan… at least till the time that he has served his term in jail. He has been lying to the court that he was not on driver’s seat when the accident took place and one after another conspiracy theorieswere put forth. He has a huge fan base and certainly they will stick to him even now but a criminal is a criminal and brands should not make him the face of promotion, in my opinion.”

Khan was also the host of the popular reality show Bigg Boss on Colors. The channel was supposed to have his services as host in the upcoming season too.When enquired about the impact of court’s verdict, a source in the channel says, “It is too early to make a statement on this as the show is still four to five months away.”

While there was a bloodbath on the bourses today, with the Sensex and Nifty falling 723 points and 228 points respectively, media scrips associated with the actor like Eros International Media and Mandhana Industries also saw a fall following the court’s verdict. Eros International Media, which owns the global rights of Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Hero, fell 5.72 per cent to close the day at Rs 380.80. On the other hand, Mandhana Industries, which has the exclusive global license to design, manufacture, retail and distribute Khan’s Being Human Clothing line, was down 4.24 per cent and closed the day at Rs 264.54.

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