Celebrities, be it in the field of entertainment or sports, are not just ‘famous personalities.’ They command a following and exert an influence that reaches millions. So, it should be no surprise when brands line up to sign these influencers to expand their market and enhance their overall appeal. The celebrities too rely on their aura to drive home customers and sales that, at the end of the day, makes everyone involved happy.
In India, celebrities rake in large sums of money by associating with big brands mainly because we almost worship celebrities as deities. The Indian consumer doesn’t mind developing loyalty towards brands endorsed by their favourite celebrities – brands which they otherwise may not have preferred.
However, due to the public furore calling for the boycott of Chinese products in the country, Bollywood and sports celebrities endorsing Chinese products have come under the scanner. While a few point out that it is not fair to look through the prism of nationalism and judge these celebrities, the majority demands that the celebs should reconsider their commitment towards these products.
What is the big deal?
A few weeks ago, while announcing the 20 lakh crore economic package for the country, our Prime Minister also gave a call for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ and encouraged the citizens of the country to be self-reliant. The message was amplified further by educationist Sonam Wangchuk in the wake of the recent standoff between Indian and Chinese forces along the LAC. His video went viral and soon ‘Boycott China’ started trending on social media platforms.
As a result, many netizens started demanding that celebrities give up their affiliations with Chinese brands. This has put many stars in a spot of bother because the amount of revenue they earn from any brand endorsement is huge. And it won’t be wrong to say that the boycott would hurt the Chinese brands too, because India is the fastest-growing market in the world and happens to be one of the biggest cash cows for Chinese brands.
Who endorses which Chinese brand
Bollywood celebrities like Aamir Khan and Sara Ali Khan endorse Vivo mobile phones. Virat Kohli is the brand ambassador of IQOO phones (a sub-brand of Vivo). Deepika Padukone, Sidharth Malhotra, Badshah, Ranbir Kapoor, Vicky Malhotra and Katrina Kaif endorse Oppo smartphones. While Xiaomi is endorsed by Ranveer Singh, celebrities like Salman Khan, Shraddha Kapoor and Ayushmann Khurrana endorse Realme phones. Li Ning is another Chinese brand that recently signed a 4-year deal with PV Sindhu as their brand ambassador – a record deal for an Indian badminton player.
Another unlikely victim of the anti-China sentiment is the BCCI. The governing body has numerous sponsors like Oppo, Vivo, Byju’s, Paytm, Dream 11, etc. that have connections with Chinese entities. These brands have pumped in millions of dollars in support of sporting events like World Cups, IPL, many ODI and Test Series over the last five years. BCCI however, recently stated that they will review their sponsors in the future.
Sign of the things to come
According to the Mumbai-based Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB), a vast number of Indians are against celebrities endorsing Chinese products. So, when the clamour for Swadeshi products increased, Indian brands and the trader organisations took the cue. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), recently asked Bollywood celebrities to sever their ties with Chinese products and urged them to promote Indian goods and services.
CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said that “In the wake of the recent developments against China, it will be in the interest of the nation if top Indian celebrities immediately stop endorsing Chinese mobile brands.” He also added that the impact of the anti-China sentiment on celebrity endorsements will depend on how loud and vicious the ‘Boycott China’ campaign gets.
Mr Khandelwal also highlighted the fact that “If our brave soldiers can fight in the border, then even 7 crore Indian traders can also break China’s strength. We have alternatives for almost 3000 Chinese products right here in India. If we can boycott these products, then by December 2021, we can create a loss of Rs 1 lakh crore to China.”
Apart from CAIT, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) recently issued a press statement where it urged actors to distance themselves from promoting Chinese products. FWICE’s press statement reads, “We, therefore, request all not to endorse any Chinese brand in the wake of the ongoing tension between the two countries. It is an issue of serious concern, and we should all give utter priority to the safety and security of our nation. For us, the ‘Nation comes first.’ Hence, we appeal all to kindly refrain from promoting any Chinese products or related brands.”
Bollywood actor Kartik Aaryan recently cancelled his multi-crore deal with Chinese mobile brand Oppo. The anti-China sentiment has been visible in the industrial sector too. JSW Steel had announced that it will cut its Chinese imports to zero within the next two years. A few weeks ago, Hero Cycles too had cancelled a deal worth Rs. 900 Crore with China.
What happens now?
Is it really possible to disrupt China’s supply chain in India? Considering the footprint China has on the Indian economy, especially the multi-million dollar deals in electronics and sports industry, it does seem like wishful thinking. Also, the fact that none of the celebrities or players have come out publicly in support of the boycott has further fuelled public anger.
We live in the era of social media and therefore the possibility of a hashtag like #BoycottThisCelebrity trending due to their links to Chinese brands is very real. Celebrities, after all, need to maintain their public image and therefore they might have to consider foregoing their ties with Chinese brands.