The last time a brand got its cricketer endorser so right was probably in the eighties when Pustak Mahal chose Kapil Dev to endorse its Rapidex English Speaking Course. The fit was fabulous. Here was one of India’s heroes, who thundered down the pitch but spoke halting English and had to face jibes like “India’s captain and can’t even speak English” for it. You could argue that captaincy had little to do with language (that too, ostensibly a foreign one), but the jibes stung, and Dev made an effort to learn the Queen’s English. It was a win-win situation.
The cricketer’s old rustic accent had endeared him to Indians who didn’t speak the language; his new mastery increased everyone’s respect for him and showed non-English speakers the way. Meanwhile Rapidex, already a successful self-learning book, found its way into the hands of young people across the country looking to improve their language skills and became a national bestseller.
Years later, in an interview, Kapil Dev said: “Honestly, my interest at that stage was not promoting or learning English. I was young and looking to make money. Rapidex’s offer meant I was going to make some money and also, as I realised later, inspire many like me to learn a new language.”No doubt cricketer Virat Kohli is saying something similar, about his ongoing endorsement of Manyavar. The current captain of the national cricket team has been the ambassador for the ethnic menswear brand for a while now, and has spent the last two months togged up in its wedding clothes. And not just alone. For its new campaign, the company even roped in Virat’s real-life sweetheart, actor Anushka Sharma, to play his love interest while wearing an outfit from its women’s label Mohey.
The commercial shows Virat and Anushka sitting together at a wedding and watching the newlywed couple talk to each other. They try and guess what the other two could be saying, and come up with corny promises to each other. That ad film ends on a quasi-serious note, with both Virat and Anushka promising to look after each other for keeps.
And that’s exactly what the two did this last week, when they exchanged real life vows at their wedding in Italy. Ok, so there was a slight difference. The real-life wedding wardrobe didn’t consist of Manyavar. Both Virat and Anushka opted to wear clothes (and in her case, jewellery too) by star designer Sabyasachi. There were murmurs of dissatisfaction on social media about how Manyavar got taken for a ride. I don’t think so. And I’m dead certain neither does the label.
A mass market brand, it wouldn’t have expected to wend its way to Italy. It knows who its real buyers are. And more importantly, it knows it’s certainly not lost out. Because how many of the lakhs of Indians who watch the Virat-Anushka commercials on TV know who has done the real wedding clothes? Or can afford Sabyasachi, even if they do? For them, love blooms in Manyavar, so that’s where they’ll go shopping when it’s time to chant their own vows. Now that’s what I call a smashing brand baaja baraat endorsement story.