In Bollywood, box office numbers may be sacrosanct but a cola deal is the final stamp of approval for your star status. And Salman Khan has seemingly just received it from none other than India's 'macho' cola brand Thums Up.
The actor, as per a source close to the development, has been signed on as the brand ambassador for Thums Up, close on the heels of his endorsement deal for rival company PepsiCo's Mountain Dew ending around April this year after a year's association. In retrospect, Thums Up's tieup with Khan's Ek Tha Tiger then seems like a precursor to the association.
It may recalled that the cola brand launched a national level campaign with Mahesh Babu, Aaj Kuch Toofani Kartey Hain, ahead of the summer season earlier this year. Akshay Kumar's absence in the communication was conspicuous, given that he'd been associated with the brand since 2003.
In future, while Khan will be the national face of the brand, Telugu cinema actor Mahesh Babu will continue to stay on board for the Southern markets, owing to his high recall value in Andhra Pradesh, traditionally one of Thums Up's largest markets, added the source.
After repeated follow-ups, Coca Cola (Thums Up's parent company), simply stated that "Salman Khan is not our brand ambassador," without elaborating further plans.
Khan also endorses many other brands including Wheel and Chlormint. Besides, he has been playing a double role as the brand ambassador and an investor for travel portal yatra.com. The portal has launched a multimedia campaign featuring the star showing off new product offerings such as instalment payment for air tickets.
On their part, brand consultants believe that Salman Khan and Thums Up are a match made in heaven. In the fizzy drinks markets, a new energy point is sought every year to engage with the consumers and in cinematic context that point is the star who ruled the previous year. In Khan's case the rule has reigned since 2010 with the release of Dabaang, followed by Ready and Bodyguard last year and the latest, Ek Tha Tiger, each being a member of the prestigious Rs 100 crore plus collections club..
"Salman Khan is perceived as the heartthrob of the rustic folk in India. He is the action cum romance star, a great mix for the fizzy drinks. With him the toofani tonality of the drink will find a toofani endorser," says Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults, a brand consultancy firm. As testimony to the love of the hinterlands for Khan is Ramadhir Singh's (the character from the second instalment of Gangs of Wasseypur) dialogue about how every young man in Dhanbad wants to be a Salman Khan.