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HomeBusinessAsia Cup revives paan masala ad debate

Asia Cup revives paan masala ad debate

NEW DELHI : The ongoing Asia Cup cricket tournament has re-ignited the debate on movie stars, including Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn and Shahrukh Khan, promoting paan masala brands on TV. While Big B and son Abhishek endorse Kamla Pasand, the others appear in ads for “elaichi” from Vimal.

According to the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, smokeless tobacco products, such as paan masala, can lead to oral pre-malignant lesions, oral cancer, oesophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, throat cancer, renal cell cancer and is fatal. Asia Cup viewers have been expressing outrage on social media following the return of the ads after Kumar and Bachchan claimed to have distanced themselves from the tobacco brands.

In April, Kumar said after facing public flak he stepped down as the brand ambassador for Vimal Eliachi. In October 2021, Bachchan’s representatives said he sent a legal notice to Kamla Pasand and withdrew from the ad campaign.

However, the popular tournament is full of surrogate ads for elaichi (cardamom) from chewing tobacco companies.

Branding experts said such decisions impact the brand value of ambassadors. “Social ostracism of categories is a reality. Alcohol, tobacco and paan masala are such categories. Just as brand endorsers give positive strokes to brands, similarly brands have the ability of giving negative strokes to the endorsers. These stars definitely run that risk,” said Harish Bijoor, business and brand strategy expert. As per Celebrity Brand Valuation Report 2021 by Duff & Phelps, Kumar ranked number 3 with a brand valuation of $139.6 million, and Bachchan ranked 6 with a brand value of $54.2 million.

Communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan said most stars, who stand to make huge bucks by endorsing paan masala brands, may be gauging if the outrage is temporary. “That may explain why Bachchan offers no statement while these ads continue after a pause, or why Kumar reasons for the continuation of the ads.” In April, Kumar had tweeted apologising for the ad and committing to give away the endorsement money for a worthy cause. Queries emailed to Vimal Elaichi and Kamla Pasand remained unanswered.

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