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Telugu star Allu Arjun competes with Bollywood celebs for brand deals – what makes him so popular? – afaqs!

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The Pushpa actor starred in Coca-Cola’s latest ad. Here’s a breakdown of his equity as a brand endorser.
For the first time in Indian advertising, Allu Arjun – a Telugu actor, features alongside a South Korean pop band TRI.BE and North Indian singer Armaan Malik. The music video Arjun stars in is an ad for Coca-Cola and is over 2 minutes long. In the past, Coca-Cola has been endorsed by the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Siddharth Malhotra.
The difference between Arjun and the above mentioned actors? They are all Bollywood actors and none of them (except Aishwarya Rai) have starred in South Indian movies. Whereas Arjun on the other hand, has never starred in a Hindi language movie and focuses almost exclusively on Telugu cinema.
How does Arjun today, stand on the same platform that these actors once stood on? A part of that answer lies in his latest hit movie – Pushpa: the Rise – released in December 2021. The movie was originally shot in Telugu, but dubbed in multiple Indian languages and became a huge hit across the country.
With Pushpa’s success, Arjun is no longer a ‘regional actor’ but a national star. One who is widely recognised and has subsequently endorsed major brands like Zomato, KFC, Rapido, and Parle Agro’s Frooti. He cherry picks these endorsement deals. Media reports state that he recently turned down a pan masala brand’s endorsement deal – one that would’ve earned him nearly Rs. 10 crore.
Manish Porwal, managing director – Alchemist Marketing and Talent Solutions is not surprised at the fact that Arjun turned down the endorsement. “Its likely he would’ve gotten trolled if he did accept it. He’s an actor and a star. In the South especially, when people like an actor, they become big fans of theirs and the star has considerable influence. His appeal to audiences is equal to the appeal that some of the top actors in India might hold,” he explains.
Dr. Sandeep Goyal, managing director of Rediffusion and founder of the Indian Institute of Human Brands isn’t surprised either, that his refusal of the endorsement made news. “Allu Arjun’s movie Pushpa has helped him gain familiarity, mainstream appeal and all-India recognition – all without him acting in a Hindi movie,” he says.
Goyal specifically references the fact that Arjun hasn’t acted in any Bollywood movie because in the past, that was the most common way for a South Indian actor to get noticed in other parts of the country.
Many actors have gained national appeal this way. This includes Sridevi (who acted in movies like English Vinglish and Mr, India), Hema Malini (Sholay, Andaz), Jaya Prada (Sindoor), Madhavan (Tanu Weds Manu, 3 Idiots), Dhanush (Shamitaabh, Raanjhana), Siddharth (Rang De Basanti, Chashme Baddoor) and Prabhu Deva (Anybody Can Dance, Street Dancer 3D).
Porwal agues that the North vs. South divide is narrowing and now, trans-region movies are doing well on a pan-India level. “This is because the movies tend to have a very rustic, 90s appeal. North Indian movies have always done fairly well in South, but if you take movies like Pushpa or the Baahubali franchise, they have done extremely well all over India – and this is a trend that is going to keep growing,” he says.
N Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research says that many non-Telugu speaking audiences consume Telugu movies for their production quality, the action sequences, the catchy dance numbers, etc. “Today, audiences don’t care about which language a movie was made in. If it’s entertaining, has a gripping storyline, they will watch it,” he says.
Goyal mentions that Pushpa is more popular than any Bollywood movie right now and most people recognise Arjun – which may not have been the case say two years ago.
“Three things play an important role in a star competing in the brand endorsements game – recognition, familiarity, and mainstream appeal,” says Goyal.
Goyal adds that Pushpa’s popularity has added to Arjun’s value as a brand endorser. He reveals that Allu Arjun demands roughly Rs. 7.5 crore per endorsement deal whereas Ranveer Singh demands at least Rs. 6 crore and Singh gives the brand at least 2 days of his time.
Porwal says that in Arjun’s case, the success of his movies will also help him get more yield per deal. “South Indian actors tend to be choosy about their endorsements. For many years, top stars like Kamal Hassan and Rajinikanth refused to do brand endorsements altogether – so there is a huge premium when it comes to endorsements. Arjun is more likely to get a better bang for his buck from brands,” he elaborates.
Other actors from the Telugu film industry who are pan-India brand endorsers include Samantha Ruth Prabhu (KurKure, Munch, Myntra, PhonePe), Rashmika Mandanna (McDonald’s, Plum, Santoor), Ram Charan (Frooti, Disney+ Hotstar), Junior NTR (Appy Fizz), Mahesh Babu (Closeup, Flipkart) and Vijay Devarkonda (Moj, Thums Up).
In the past, Sridevi was one of the actors who had national appeal in addition to working as a brand endorser for Lux Soap. Chandramouli says that it was much rarer to see a national level brand endorsements from a male actor from South. “This used to be the case, but that is changing – especially in the case of actors like Arjun.”
Chandramouli points out that Pushpa and RRR were two of the biggest hit movies that India has seen as the cinema industry found its way out of the pandemic. In contrast, Bollywood movies have not been able to perform well at the Box Office.
He argues that a movie’s Box Office performance doesn’t affect the fee that the actor charges for working in the movie. “Bollywood actors charge almost 60-70% of the entire production value of the films. In comparison, you have South Indian actors who have delivered consistent hits, do not act pricey and they are already widely recognised superstars in their own region. Allu Arjun is an example of that and this makes him a valuable endorser and Telugu actors brand value will only go up,” he says.
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