The controversy around Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh’s nude photoshoot seems to have quietened but the chatter continues. And while it is said that any publicity is good publicity, is the chatter a cause of concern for brands? Remember, the photographs led to the filing of a first information report against the actor. And controversies have led to the loss of brand deals for celebrities in the past.
“We have seen brand reactions to such controversies like the situation with (cricketer) Hardik Pandya when he lost his partnership with Gillette India in 2019 after his controversial interview on a famous talk show. In 2015, (actor) Aamir Khan’s statement about not feeling safe in India triggered a hate campaign on social media, as a result of which Snapdeal decided not to renew its contract with him,” said Aviral Jain, managing director of Kroll, a company that provides proprietary data, technology and insights.
He shared more instances including online education company BYJU’s pausing advertisements featuring Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan after the Narcotic Control Bureau arrested his son Aryan Khan last year, and Akshay Kumar experiencing excessive trolling after his association with Vimal Pan Masala despite his ‘fitness-freak’ image in the media.
“During controversies, considering social media reactions and public sentiments, brands operate with a high level of caution while working with the celebrity embroiled in a controversy,” said Jain.
Brands that are sensitive about controversies may not want to associate with Singh at the moment, said Gautam Madhavan, CEO, Mad Influence, a celebrity and influencer marketing platform.
Echoing similar sentiments, Dhruv Modwil, founder, of Nocturnal Media, a creative studio, said that a few safe-playing brands may halt their activities, but never stop. According to them, the impact will be only short-term. “In the long run they (brands) will continue working with him and on social media too we saw no brand saying they are backing out,” said Madhavan.
Jain said that Singh’s case may be perceived differently by Indian audiences and marketers. “He has positioned himself uniquely by adopting a fashion sense that’s seen as flashy and bold. So the photoshoot in question is not something we couldn’t have imagined from him,” he said.
Singh, who is famous for his flamboyant dress sense, jumped to the second rank in 2021 in the top most valued Indian celebrity list, with a portfolio of more than 35 brands, said Jain. ”He has also added several brand endorsements in 2022, including (online tutorials provider) Eduauraa, (e-grocer) FreshtoHome, Vicks and (mattress company) Sleepyhead. He continues to enjoy a strong social media following with 70 million followers as of date, an increase from 67 million followers last year,” he added.
Brands including Sleepyhead and bike taxi aggregator Rapido, which recently signed Singh on as its brand ambassador, declined to comment on the impact of the controversy.
“In the current celebrity ecosystem, he is the one who stands out due to his work. Brands love eyeballs and Ranveer Singh has that, and no brand will refrain from giving him endorsement deals,” said Shivam Agarwal, founder of Deckster.Live, an influencer marketing platform.
Madhavan said that the actor has got a lot of publicity for these pictures. Singh’s post on Twitter of the photoshoot for Paper Magazine saw over 18,000 likes and 2,259 retweets. On Instagram, the same post received 2.5 million likes.
Jain thinks that the actor might have taken another step towards strong brand differentiation from his peers. “We believe an impact, if any, would be limited,” he said.
Karan Pherwani, director, influencer solutions, and head of Chtrbox Represent, an influencer marketing firm, said that the photoshoot is an instance of bringing the actor to the relevance of the brand and capitalises on what’s already there. “It did happen with several moment marketing trends we saw on the day the concerned photos went live,” he said.
One such brand was the online fashion store Myntra, which Photoshopped one of Singh’s nude pictures with quirky clothes.The photoshoot was consistent with what Singh stands for and it only raised the bar for artistic representation, said Pherwani. ”There’s no negative impact on brand Ranveer,” he added.