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Amitabh Bachchan and Pepsico India: Child Questions – Childish Response?

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Amitabh Bachchan and PepsiCo India: Child Questions – Childish Response?

 

“A celeb can’t de-endorse a brand he/she has backed in the past on the basis of a comment someone else has made, unless he/she can back the claim with proof.”1

– Vinita Bangard, Founder-Managing Director, Krossover Entertainment Private Limited2


“I don’t think celebrities have the power to be custodians of brand quality. Celebs endorse brands only for commercial reasons.”3

– Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director, Percept Limited4


On January 30th 2014, a usual interactive session at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA5) turned out to be an unusual one, for two reasons – first, because the speaker was Bollywood’s6 legend and Indian actor, Amitabh Bachchan (Bachchan); and second, the lecture (Q&A session) stirred a controversy in the Indian advertising industry, when Bachchan made a remark about PepsiCo India’s (PepsiCo) soft drink – a brand that he had endorsed for 8 years. Recounting an earlier interaction with a child who questioned, why he was endorsing for a product (brand) that her school teacher opined to be a poison, Bachchan shared with IIMA students how that triggered his decision to disassociate from Pepsi brand.

The incident left PepsiCo’s management, industry veterans and other stakeholders wondering why Bachchan, who has a cult following in the country, made such remarks. After being the brand endorser for 8 years, the sudden public revelation about it created ripples in the Indian advertising industry, damaging Pepsi’s brand equity in particular and carbonated drinks in general. While the actor opined that the act was driven by his due diligence (after being questioned by the child) and conscience, experts wondered whether this was the result of Pepsi’s decision against renewing Bachchan’s endorsement contract. While few support Bachchan’s revelation as they see it as an act of social responsibility, the incident raised questions in the advertising industry regarding the fiduciary/moral responsibility of brand endorsers towards the endorsed brands...............

 



  • 1 Ratna Bhushan, “Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘poison’ dart leaves Pepsi cringing, staff saddened by remark”, http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2014-02-03/news/46963015_1_pepsico-india-kalyan-jewellers-amitabh-bachchan, February 3rd 2014
  • 2 Krossover Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., is a talent management firm.
  • 3 “Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘poison’ dart leaves Pepsi cringing, staff saddened by remark”, op.cit.
  • 4 Percept Limited is an entertainment, media, communications and sports marketing firm based in Mumbai, India.
  • 5 The Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIM Ahmedabad or IIMA) is a public business school located in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. It was the second Indian Institute of Management (IIM) to be established in 1961, after IIM Calcutta. It is consistently ranked as one of the best business schools in India and in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • 6 Bollywood is the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay), Maharashtra, India.

Teaching Note Preview

Amitabh Bachchan and PepsiCo India: Child Questions – Childish Response?

 

In January 2014, Amitabh Bachchan (Bachchan), an Indian film actor, during an interactive session with the students of IIM-A, mentioned that he had stopped endorsing Pepsi because a schoolgirl questioned, why he was endorsing for a product (brand) that her school teacher opined to be a poison. This stirred a controversy in the Indian advertising industry. The statement left the company’s stakeholders and industry observers wondering why a person of Bachchan’s stature would make such a comment, after endorsing the brand for 8 years. Was Bachchan right in doing so?  Has Bachchan failed in his moral responsibility? Should companies rethink about using celebrity brand endorsers? What could be the impact on PepsiCo and Bachchan? While some supported Bachchan’s act considering it social responsibility, many opined that it was not morally correct on his part. This case study explores the relationship between a brand and its brand endorser and most importantly enables an interesting debate on the fiduciary responsibility of the brand endorser.

Pedagogical Objectives

  • -To discuss and debate on the appropriateness and the desirability of Amitabh Bachchan’s public revelation of the reasons that have prompted him to disassociate himself from Pepsi’s brand endorsement
  • -To analyze the impact of Amitabh Bachchan’s disassociation from Pepsi brand in India from the standpoint of Pepsi’s business prospects in India and his endorsement potential
  • -To debate on the moral (fiduciary) responsibility of a brand endorser towards the endorsed brands

 

Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in the following courses:

  • a)      Advertising and Sales Promotion course – The Choice of Celebrity and Celebrity Endorsement
  • b)      Brand Management course –  Brand-Brand Endorser Fit and Fiduciary Responsibilities of Brand Endorsers

 

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Product code: MKTG-1-0020, MKTG-1-0020A

Abstract


This case study explores the relationship between a brand and its brand endorser and most importantly enables an interesting debate on the moral (fiduciary) responsibility of the brand endorser. A usual interaction with students turned out to be an unusual episode in Indian advertising. In January 2014, the Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan (Bachchan) was interacting with students at IIM Ahmedabad where in response to one of the questions he recounted an earlier experience (when he was confronted by a little girl in Jaipur who wondered why he promoted a soft drink that her teacher had branded as 'poison'). He shared that, 'this impression is on the mind of the people... so I stopped endorsing Pepsi.'1
After having endorsed the brand for 8 years, the sudden public revelation created ripples in the Indian advertising industry damaging Pepsi's brand equity. Was he right in doing so or could he have done it in a different way? Should a brand endorser not have a moral (fiduciary) relationship with the brand even after the formal contract expired? What should be the relationship between a brand and brand endorser? How do such incidents affect the company's reputation and the endorser's brand endorsement potential? This case study offers the scope to debate the appropriateness of Bachchan's actions and is suitable to teach the concepts of Brand Endorsement, Brand Endorsers, Celebrity Endorser and their Social and Moral Responsibility in the courses of Marketing Management; Advertising and Promotion.



Pedagogical Objectives

  • To discuss and debate on the appropriateness and the desirability of Amitabh Bachchan's public revelation of the reasons that have prompted him to disassociate himself from Pepsi’s brand endorsement
  • To analyze the impact of Amitabh Bachchan's disassociation from Pepsi brand in India from the standpoint of Pepsi's business prospects in India and his endorsement potential
  • To debate on the moral (fiduciary) responsibility of a brand endorser towards the endorsed brands


1 Amy Kazmin, 'Pepsi Encounters Makes Bollywood Veteran Sever Link', Financial Times, February 4th 2014



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