Backlash against Snapdeal may lead to strict endorsement terms

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on January 22, 2018



Co faces ire of some users after brand icon Aamir Khan expressed personal views

The identities of a celebrity and of the brand he or she endorses often rub off on each other. Look no further than Aamir Khan and Snapdeal.

The Bollywood star has been facing the wrath of some members of the public after expressing personal views, and the brand has been at the receiving end. Not so long ago, it was the other way around, with actor Madhuri Dixit copping flak due to the controversy around Nestle’s Maggi, a brand she endorsed.

Experts believe all this may lead to stricter damage-mitigation clauses in brand endorsement contracts.

Backlash against Snapdeal

It began on Monday, when Khan waded into the debate over intolerance and expressed anxiety over the sense of insecurity his family feels because of the prevailing “atmosphere”, noting that his wife had wondered if they should leave the country.

This led to a social media backlash, and not simply with mocking hashtags; users started targeting Snapdeal on Tuesday, uninstalling its app and downgrading its ratings.

This forced the e-commerce marketplace to swing into action to contain the damage. In a statement on Wednesday, the company said: “Snapdeal is neither connected nor plays a role in comments made by Aamir Khan in his personal capacity. Snapdeal is a proud Indian company built by passionate young Indians, focussed on building an inclusive Digital India. Everyday, we are positively impacting thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers.”

By evening, Khan, too, issued a statement standing by what he had said and clarifying his comments.

Several other brands, which had ties with Khan, got embroiled in the controversy on social media. The Godrej Group had to tweet clarifications to users: “Aamir Khan’s contract with Godrej ended in March 2014. The said views are his personal & in no way connected to us.” A statement from Coca-Cola India said: “We have had no commercial association with Aamir Khan for several years and it is therefore out of bounds for us to comment on his remarks.”

Meanwhile, Snapdeal got some support from rival Flipkart’s CEO Sachin Bansal, who tweeted: “Brands don’t buy into brand ambassadors’ personal opinions. @snapdeal shouldn’t face this.”

Symbiotic relationship

Brands pay top dollar to ride on their brand ambassador’s social media presence, often using it to launch new campaigns. Experts, however, believe that in the era of social media, the line between personal and public opinions is fast blurring. A brand’s image and actions and those of its ambassador rub off on each other, as they have a symbiotic relationship, said brand consultant Harish Bijoor.

He added that in the light of recent incidents, brands can be expected to insert strict clauses to protect themselves.

N Chandramouli, CEO of brand insights firm TRA, agrees. “Such controversies are likely to bring in a change. As in the West, brands are likely to go for water-tight endorsement contracts,” he said.

Published on November 25, 2015

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