• Bollywood and cricket provide a unifying pool of powerful celebrities who can influence more than 2 billion individuals worldwide, regardless of language, religion and country of origin.
  • South Asians are more loyal to their celebrities than anyone else and are more likely to be influenced by them.
  • Celebrity endorsements are more effective in increasing brand awareness and sales in South Asian consumers than in Western consumers.

 

South Asia is home to 1.7 billion people divided among 8 countries, 6 main religions and hundreds of languages. Across all these differences, what unites them? South Asia’s “twin obsessions” of Bollywood and Cricket, of course! Together, these provide a group of instantly recognizable faces loved by over 2 billion individuals around the world. Is it any wonder that advertisers marketing in South Asia are banking on them to promote their products?

How do South Asians at home and abroad view celebrity endorsements? How can that inform your choices when marketing to members of that community?

THE POWER OF SOUTH ASIAN CELEBRITIES

In South Asia, the concept of celebrity is taken to its extreme. Admired and emulated, celebrities can even be elevated to god-like levels. In India, actual temples have been built in honor of actors such as megastar Amitabh Bachchan. Yes, celebrities there are literally worshipped. Fiercely loyal to their stars, once they adopt someone, the people’s affection for them is sincere and not likely to waver.

Celebrities are seen as public property and their every move is reported on in the media. Those who choose to use this power in a positive manner create a reputation as people of integrity and generosity.  In an area of the world where governments are often seen as corrupt, they have become role models, spokespeople for those who do not feel heard. From speaking up about social issues to endorsing a brand, their influence far surpasses that of politicians and prominent business people. Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, whose television series Satyamev Jayate (English: Truth Alone Triumphs) sheds light on several social issues, is widely respected as a force for change by the Indian people.

Such is the power of Bollywood that the popularity of a consumer product or fashion trend featured in a top movie is all but guaranteed to skyrocket overnight. Fashion styles, sometimes given the name of the star who wore it first, are sure to make their appearance in shops within weeks. Songs from top movies are instant hits and dance moves are immediately adopted by scores of teenagers. There is no better way to promote social change or cultural shifts than to make a Bollywood movie about it.

Celebraties

SOUTH ASIAN CELEBRITIES AND ATTITUDES TOWARDS ENDORSEMENTS

Advertisers, of course, are jumping at the opportunity to leverage this influential medium. This has led to extensive use of product placement and celebrity endorsements to sell anything from body powder to mobile phones, from floor tiles to air conditioners.

Several top actors and cricketers act as “Brand Ambassadors” for multiple brands. Whereas Western celebrities carefully manage their public image to avoid overexposure, their South Asian counterparts do not seem to suffer any negative consequences from this.

Charismatic Indian cricketer Virat Kohli is a prolific endorser. As of March 2016, he was spokesperson for 13 brands such as MRF, Pepsi, Adidas, Audi, Oakley and Nestlé.

Charismatic Indian cricketer Virat Kohli is a prolific endorser. As of March 2016, he was spokesperson for 13 brands such as MRF, Pepsi, Adidas, Audi, Oakley and Nestlé.

Charismatic Indian cricketer Virat Kohli is a prolific endorser. As of March 2016, he was spokesperson for 13 brands such as MRF, Pepsi, Adidas, Audi, Oakley and Nestlé.

Case in point: Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone, currently endorsing 18 brands, is arguably the most visible celebrity in the Indian media at the moment. With at least three continually-running national television commercials, ubiquitous billboards and numerous print ads, the average Indian is almost guaranteed daily exposure to her image.

Actress Deepika Padukone is brand ambassador for such names as Coca-Cola, Sony, Nescafé, Garnier, Kellogg’s and Neutrogena.

Actress Deepika Padukone is brand ambassador for such names as Coca-Cola, Sony, Nescafé, Garnier, Kellogg’s and Neutrogena.

MARKETING TO SOUTH ASIANS ABROAD

The joyous festival of colors and music that is Bollywood and the exciting world of cricket are not bound by mere national borders.  Enthusiastic users of YouTube, Facebook and local South Asian TV stations, South Asians living abroad are quite well informed about latest Bollywood hits and cricket scores.

Clearly, media from home is still very present for the South Asian diaspora and plays a role in shaping their perceptions, even when they have settled in their new country. If you are a marketer, how can you take that into account to communicate your message effectively?

Make use of your local South Asians celebrities
No doubt your local South Asian community has already produced a number of public personalities such as TV or radio hosts, comedians, athletes or successful local business people. Any South Asian in the public eye is already well known and well-loved by their community. Why not make use of such local celebrities to market your product?

Look into television advertising
South Asian television channels are found in most South Asian households in Canada. One such Canadian South Asian TV station advertises 55 channels, one of which offers 800 movies a month and others which broadcast all cricket matches. Since Bollywood and cricket are a major way South Asians use to stay in touch with their roots, advertising exposure on these channels is likely to reach a large proportion of that market.  Ask a Maple Diversity communication expert if television advertising is the right fit for your campaign!

Familiarize yourself with the latest South Asian advertising trends
Stay aware of new trends in consumer products, fashion and cultural shifts in South Asia by being familiar with popular movies and advertising. Even if the advertised brands are not available in Canada, this can inform your choices when marketing to the South Asian community.

TALK TO THE EXPERTS

How can you decide which strategy is best to offer your services to the South Asian community?  At Maple Diversity, we make it our business to know the local Canadian South Asian communities and can advise you on how you can best reach them. We craft personalized solutions that match your product or service with each community’s culture and consumer habits.