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Shah Rukh Khan – no longer the Baadshah of brands

Venkata Susmita Biswas
Over the years, Khan's brand endorsement list, too, has been shrinking.

Shah Rukh Khan, once considered the king of both Bollywood and brand endorsements, hasn't been in high demand among brand marketers for a few years. Khan has had a dry spell on the box office in recent times, and has not been seen on the silver screen for nearly a year now.

As per the Celebrity Endorsement Report by media research agency TAM, Khan had an average visibility of around 7 hours per day on television for the period of January-June 2019. In contrast, Akshay Kumar, a contemporary of Khan, is the most visible celebrity on television with an average visibility of 17 hours per day.

Khan was ranked seven on the list; MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Alia Bhatt, all ranked higher with visibility ranging from 14-10 hours per day.

Over the years, Khan's brand endorsement list, too, has been shrinking. Dish TV, a brand that roped in the actor in 2007 - three years after its launch - last renewed the brand endorsement deal with Khan in 2016 for two years. Other associations with brands such as Frooti and shaving cream ViJohn, too, have ended over the last few years.

According to the Duff & Phelps Celebrity Brand Valuation Report of 2018, Khan's lack of Bollywood and media presence had led to a dip in the actor's endorsement activity. The actor, who had about 40 brands in his kitty a decade back, saw the number drop to a meagre 13 in 2018; currently, he endorses around 15-20 brands.

Khan, who is said to claim around Rs 4-5 crore per day for a brand endorsement, has lost out to younger celebrities like Kohli, Padukone and Ranveer Singh, each of whom endorse around 25-40 brands.

This year, the actor has worked on rebuilding his brand portfolio; a total of four brands have signed on Khan as a brand ambassador in 2019-ICICI for its MSME digital banking platform InstaBIZ, Kent for its security solutions products, Mitsubishi Air Conditioners, and V-Nourish, the child nutrition supplement. Khan was also part of Goibibo's Indian Premier League campaign, even though he was not a brand ambassador for the travel services app.

Among his current prominent brand associations are car manufacturer Hyundai, learning app Byju's, which is now the sponsor for the Indian cricket team, and grocery delivery app BigBasket. In fact, the TV commercials for Byju's featuring Khan topped ad recall during the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, as per a survey.

Shortly after bringing him aboard as brand ambassador in 2017, the start-up had gone on to become a unicorn the following year. "With such associations, Shah Rukh currently seems to be veering towards tech and digital brands," notes Aviral Jain, MD, Duff & Phelps.

Celebrity brand endorsers tend to lose influence in mass media endorsement deals when their performance in their core area of expertise declines. Khan, whose last film Zero tanked at the box office, has since taken a break from movies and did not have any film release in 2019.

"It has been a while since an SRK release has been able to match the blockbuster numbers recorded by Chennai Express in 2013," says Nitin Tej Ahuja, founding publisher of Box Office India, a film trade magazine. He adds, "It is also disappointing that his last few releases have failed to cross the Rs 100-crore mark at the domestic box office, which is the very least the film trade would expect from a superstar of his stature."

Zero had a five-week run at the box office during which time it made around Rs 88 crore and 2017 film Jab Harry Met Sejal ,which was expected to be a winner at the box office, made only Rs 146 crore.

Therefore, to keep his brand persona alive and stay relevant to his audiences, Khan has taken up other projects to stay in the media eye despite not starring in movies in 2019. He is currently hosting season 2 of Ted Talks India on Star World and was interviewed by talk show host David Letterman on his Netflix show My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. Additionally, Khan's production house created its debut Netflix show this year-Bard of Blood starring Emraan Hashmi.

With rumours of Khan starring in a few movies in 2020 making the rounds in the industry, Jain says next year could be a turning point for Khan as a brand ambassador. "Khan's slow streak could end, and it could all dramatically change with his next release. Then, these bumps on the road would be quickly forgotten," says Ahuja.