Action heroes turn drivers

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  Collin Furtado  Wed, 4 Jan 2017-07:20am , Mumbai , DNA



From roping in sports stars to big Bollywood celebrities, auto makers are now driven to change the face of their commercial vehicle campaigns 


Tata Motors recently announced the signing of Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar as its brand ambassador for its commercial vehicles (CV).
While Tata Motors’s passenger vehicles has Lionel Messi as the global brand ambassador, this is a first for the CV business of the company to appoint a brand ambassador. It is usually very uncommon to see commercial vehicle manufacturers appointing brand ambassadors, let alone big Bollywood actors.

Many of them would instead go in for sports stars, like India’s cricket team ODI captain MS Dhoni who was the brand ambassador for Ashok Leyland from 2012 to 2015. Eicher Motors too had taken Olympic medal winning wrestler Sushil Kumar as their brand ambassador in 2012.
However, Tata Motors is not the only commercial vehicle company to sign on a big Bollywood star. Mahindra in March 2016 signed actor Ajay Devgan as their brand ambassador to promote their trucks and buses. The brand released its first campaign with the star promoting its heavy commerical trucks ‘Blazo’.

While it is not uncommon to see Bollywood stars promoting passenger cars such as Shahrukh Khan being the brand ambassador of Hyundai, Varun Dhawan promoting Mahindra’s KUV100, and Ranveer Singh as Maruti Suzuki’s ambassador. It is definitely new for commercial vehicles to take these Bollywood stars to endorse their products.

As passenger vehicles are more consumer centric, it makes sense for them to use film stars to promote their sales. However, with CVs targetting small enterprises or farmers, there was little need to communicate through such high profile celebrities. Like industrial based advertising, CV firms decided to concentrate on the technical attributes of the vehicle in their communication. Even the previous Mahindra and Tata Motors CV ads used the approach to communicate to industries the reliability of their vehicles.

Very few industrial-based brands use Bollywood star to promote their products: One of them being Binani Cement signing Amitabh Bachchan as their brand ambassador.
According to Sridhar Ramanujam, founder & CEO of Integrated Brand-Comm, these CV companies have now recognised the emergence of entrepreneurs buying such vehicles as they need it for their small business, and well financed by banks and financial institutions.
Another reason that CV companies rope in Bollywood stars is to drive their sales at a time when it has been sluggish due to several road blocks.

While the government’s push for implementation of BS IV emission norms has been a concern for many CV makers, the recent demonetization drive has impacted sales even more. From Ashok Leyland to Tata Motors, Mahindra and others have seen double-digit decline in December sales as a large portion of its sales used to be made using cash transactions. In addition, rural sales contribute a large portion, where majority is in cash.

For Mahindra, signining on Devgan led its May 2016 sales to overtake Tata Motors’, with a 52% market share cargo carrying truck segment. However, Tata Motors managing to do the same with Akshay Kumar at the wheel remains to be seen.