Coke would have saved itself the blushes if it had offered any other reason than the one it did for dropping Salman Khan as the celeb endorser of its popular soft drink, Thums Up, that Khan was being dropped for being associated with a reality show that was sponsored by a competitor. While, as an Economic Times report points out, there could be diminishing returns from having big-ticket celebs yoked to brands—Khan’s last contract with Coke had come for R18 crore—there is no denying that the company seems to have missed much stronger reasons to drop the actor.
Having first signed Khan on in 2001, the company continued with him till 2003 even though, in 2002, he was named in the infamous hit-and-run case that killed one and maimed four. To be sure, there could have been compelling reasons like having to wait for a contract to expire, but surely, the company would have benefited in terms of optics had it bought out the contract? Even so, the company signed him on again, for the second time, in 2012. The following year, a chargesheet was filed indicting the actor for the crime and, in May 2015, the actor was found guilty of all charges by a Mumbai sessions court. Coke missed both chances to end its association with him. It is true that in December 2015, the Bombay High Court acquitted Khan, but given it was more due to investigation botch-up—as is typical of cases involving the powerful, witnesses went missing or became hostile, crucial physical evidence and documents were lost and never found—than the actor’s innocence in the matter, holding on to him was always bad optics for Coke. Which is why, perhaps, the reason the company proffers seems so unconvincing to many.