Sanjay Prabhu: How Big B’s brand endorsement yatra began with the BPL ad

11 Oct,2012

By Sanjay Prabhu


Those were the early days post-liberalization, and India was witnessing the entry of foreign brands which were jostling with Indian brands for shelf exposure. We at BPL were faced with the challenge of creating the image that we were in the big league, way ahead of the various existing local brands. We also had an edge as we used to export lot of our products to the US and the UK market. So now the question was, how do we communicate this superior edge of BPL to the consumers?


That’s when the idea came about to rope in a reclusive superstar like Amitabh Bachchan. He had taken a break from movies and was in fact off press and was putting his energies into building his company ABCL. We managed to reach him through Rauf Ahmed, the Former Editor of Filmfare. Filmfare and Rauf shared good relations with AB and we decided to go via the good offices of Rauf to approach Mr Bachchan to be the brand ambassador for BPL. For him brand endorsement was the last thing on his mind. In fact, our negotiations went back and forth and must have taken close to 8-9 months to actually bring him on board. The challenge was not just to convince him to endorse the brand but also to agree on a remuneration that would be affordable and justifiable.


I think the figure that we paid him finally could easily be termed as the most expensive deal at that point of time to be paid to any artist in Asia.


The ad was conceptualized by Dhar & Hoon and the idea was simple – believe in the best – BPL. When it came to the execution part, Mr Bachchan who is a great entertainer with great comic timing was keen on following the same. While we were of the opinion that comic element gets boring after a few repetition and that is sure to happen in TV commercials. In fact, we do believe that Mr Bachchan’s best movies are those where his acting was intense. So we took the route where he talks to himself. We were sure that we didn’t want him to say that he owns only BPL products at home, that would be so fake. So we got him talking about how BPL approached him to endorse their products and he justifiably asks why. We did a few ads with different takes, like one where he is trying to recall the name BPL which is clearly being displayed on a panel behind him.


As for the success of those ads, it was phenomenal. We won many awards for innovative marketing. It was a first for AB to a endorse a brand so it did create a lot of buzz. However, the real reason for its success can be attributed to the fact that we recognized the buzz that Mr Bachchan’s presence in an ad would create, but we also sustained this with events and associations with the superstar that proved very successful for both BPL and Mr Bachchan.


It would not be wrong to say that BPL in many ways opened up the path for the future of brand endorsements, especially celebrity brand endorsement. It also brought to the world a new Amitabh Bachchan who would only emerge later as the biggest celebrity brand ambassador.


I do believe that what we did with BPL and Amitabh Bachchan was truly ahead of its time. It has played a significant role in redefining the way brands advertised themselves.


Sanjay Prabhu is Executive Director & Publisher at Asianet News Private Limited & Managing Director Radio Indigo. He was earlier Vice President – Brand Management with BPL Limited from 1990-2005.




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