Of the top nine posts on Bollywood actor Sonu Sood’s Instagram feed, seven are photos or videos on behalf of brands. In comparison, for leading actor Ranveer Singh, only three out of the top nine posts link to brands.
A simplistic comparison as it may be, it is a testament to the popularity of Sood as a brand ambassador. His efforts to help migrants and needy sections of society during the pandemic have made several brands sit up and take note, roping him as an endorser in 2020 and 2021.
Automotive brands like Jeep, laundry detergent brand Woosh, maker of personal computers Acer and most recently, leading smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, have leveraged Sood for the goodwill he has earned over the past year to promote their brands. His endorsement kitty has grown fatter, including brands like Spice Money, Shyam Steel, Lenskart, Oyo, ISM EduTech, mfine and MPL.
The actor’s humanitarian work during the initial months of the pandemic in 2020 made him a messiah of sorts for stranded migrant workers. Known for his roles as the bad guy on the silver screen, Sood was even awarded the Special Humanitarian Action Award by the United Nations Development Programme in September last year. Sood went on to launch a job portal for migrant workers who lost jobs called Pravasi Rojgar (now GoodWorker) and distributed smartphones to aid students in a village in Haryana. “Compared to other celebrities, Sood was seen helping people on the ground during the pandemic earning the epithet ‘People’s Hero’.
This resulted in a huge surge in his personal brand value, especially among blue-collar workers,” says Sandeep Goyal, founder and chairman, Mogae Media.
And it is this off-screen persona of Sood that has appealed to bands. “Today, Sonu is not only a Bollywood actor but a social worker who champions the cause of a positive change,” says Muralikrishnan B, chief operating officer, Mi India. The smartphone brand has associated with Sood to launch its Redmi 9 Power and Shiksha Har Haath, a campaign to donate Redmi smartphones.
Acer, a brand that has, in the past, associated with stars like Anushka Sharma, is now endorsed by Sood. The brand’s marketing head, Sooraj Balakrishnan says that now audiences are not just swayed by the popularity of a celebrity in ‘reel’ life but also for what the celebrity stands for in their real life.
“Stars like Amitabh Bachchan or Virat Kohli ensure recognition for a brand whereas relatable celebrities like Sood or even Ayushmann Khurrana can guarantee a purchase because they can be emulated,” notes Goyal. According to a study by the Indian Institute of Human Brands, Sood’s attributes include, helpful, energetic, trustworthy, down-to-earth, and friendly.
Akshay Kumar through his socially relevant films carved a new niche for himself as a socially responsible star. As Kumar has taken up a patriotic positioning now, Sood with his do-gooder image is bagging the kind of deals Kumar may have bagged about four years ago, say industry watchers.
Sood is said to be charging about `1-2 crore per endorsement. And those brands that have smaller budgets are hiring him to do social media posts alone. Can Sood continue to be the first choice for a brand looking for a relatable face one year from now when the fickle news-cycle has moved on?
Neel Gogia, co-founder, IPLIX Media, says that the actor will need to maintain his humanitarian efforts and stay in the news for similar causes if he wishes to continue to bag similar endorsement deals. “His philanthropic work is what differentiated him. If he goes back to life as it was before the pandemic, brands won’t see the same value in associating with him,” Gogia says.