Ayushmann Khurrana: The pandemic-proof brand endorser?

By: |
September 21, 2020 7:03 AM

With these new endorsement contracts, he now has a total of 17 brands in his kitty, in addition to some old ones in the process of renewal.

In 2019, Khurrana was a new entrant at rank 10 in the Duff & Phelps celeb brand valuation report with a brand value of $40.3 million.

Last year’s fan favourite, Bollywood star Ayushmann Khurrana, seems to be continuing his winning streak in the branding world this year, too, having signed six to eight new brand endorsement deals, including Tide India, Toyota’s Urban Cruiser, Nestlé’s KitKat, Bajaj Allianz, JSW Paints and Sprite.

What’s interesting to note is, this is right in the middle of the ongoing pandemic that has disrupted the marketing industry significantly. Furthermore, his new wins stand out because unlike last year, when he made waves with movies like Article 15 and winning the National Award for Andhadhun, Khurrana hasn’t had any major hits/releases in 2020 (his tally this year includes Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan and the digitally released Gulabo Sitabo). “He is probably riding on last year’s success,” says Aviral Jain, MD, Duff & Phelps. “But his movie themes aren’t radically different from last year; they are still social themes, humorous themes about the practical aspects of society. So, his positioning remains largely unaltered.”

With these new endorsement contracts, he now has a total of 17 brands in his kitty, in addition to some old ones in the process of renewal. Khurrana, according to sources, hasn’t changed his annual endorsement fee from last year, and is maintaining it at `1.5-2 crore. In addition to these retainers, he has also done a few short campaign bursts on digital media, particularly on Instagram, with brands like Disney+ Hotstar, Reliance Fresh, Club Mahindra, Dhani and Castrol Activ.

So what keeps brands returning to his doorstep? With more people active on digital media these days, “Khurrana has actively engaged with fans over social media during the lockdown. That helps with visibility,” says Jain. If one looks at bigger celebrities like Virat Kohli, Ranbir Kapoor or Deepika Padukone, they typically garner 20-25% growth in followers annually on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). But in the post-Covid scenario, this number has gone down to 15-20%.

In Khurrana’s case, however, his followers on Instagram, for instance, have risen from eight million in December 2019, to 13.1 million currently – a growth of over 30%, despite Covid. “This is encouraging,” shares Jain, “but we must not forget that the absolute base of followers averages 80-100 million for these other celebs, while Khurrana’s absolute base is far lesser.” Virat Kohli, for example, commands 80 million followers on Instagram.

However, one cannot negate Khurrana’s easy charm and boy next door appeal, which works in his favour. “He is far more relatable and approachable than, say, a Ranbir Kapoor, who is more ‘metro’ and sophisticated,” says Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media. “Ayushmann is a small town boy and therefore, more emulatable.”

Seen less as a macho man and more of a ‘common man’, Khurrana has also emerged as a silent winner in the nepotism controversies surrounding Bollywood celebs at present. “While existing contracts with star kids will probably not be affected, new brands on the hunt for endorsers would rather play safe and steer clear of controversial names at this point,” Goyal adds. This has clearly worked in Khurrans’s favour. And the fact that his contemporaries, other newcomers like Kartik Aaryan, haven’t been as visible or successful on the movie front, has helped his cause.

In 2019, Khurrana was a new entrant at rank 10 in the Duff & Phelps celeb brand valuation report with a brand value of $40.3 million.

Even as the celebrity endorsement space reels with the repercussions of marketing budget cuts, celebrities are having to offer ‘concessions’ on their contracts by either extending the duration of association free of charge for another few months, or by increasing the number of days they can be used for such engagements in a year. Sources say Khurrana is no exception to this new normal. “The volume of celebrity advertising has gone up, but the value (of using a celebrity in ads) has gone down. Similarly, we are seeing the emergence of lower tier celebrities on digital media as well, as brands are now more open to experimentation,” Jain says.

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