Friday, August 13, 2010

Managing Glitz

Be it brand endorsements, launch parties, special appearances or stage performances, being a celebrity in India means big money. The ever increasing influence of celebrities on consumer choice and a growing demand for their presence at events across the country has translated into an entirely new business area of celebrity management. Although still in its infancy in India, it is garnering huge interest and has resulted in the emergence and establishment of numerous celebrity management firms in the recent past. The corporate big wigs realize that they live in an era of cut throat marketing and celebrity associations are simply essential for market presence.

Celebrity management firms have traditionally acted like brokerages, but a paradigm shift is in process as they turn professional and replace madness with method. Virtually anyone with strong contacts can setup shop. A lot of veterans still perceive “Celebrity management to be more of an art and much less of science”, but the science is emerging with companies like Percept and Celebtrack who systemically focus on research and their roles as consultants rather than just being gatekeepers for celebrities.

Celebrity endorsers can be classified into three major categories. The first set consists of celebrities who follow the gold mantra and will endorse any brand as long as the price appeals to them (Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan etc.). The job of managing them is essentially cutting the deal and negotiating rates. Concepts like brand fit hardly exist and only hard cash matters. The second set comprises of stars who position their image in the market and associate with a brand only when they think that it suits them. The third set is of celebrities who are smaller in stature and are interchangeable. They come relatively cheap and rarely have preferences. The third set of celebrities is the one that will be most attractive for firms in the industry. This category witnesses frequent deals and does not depend hugely on celebrity preferences.

The industry is still trying to find its feet and recent events like IPL have turned the game into a gold rush for the companies involved. Recent deals between Madison Mates and John Abraham, Priyanka Chopra and Krossover are signs of aggression and competition in the industry. It is a mix of glamour and professionalism as good as it can get. The numbers speak and nine digit figures are common. Experts believe that the industry is well on its way to become worth more than INR 10 billion in the near future. Ample opportunities, low entry barriers and lucrative economic benefits continue to boost growth and interest. It still remains to be seen whether all of this can actually induce some so called “management” and change anything about the tantrums and craziness that is generally associated with celebrities in India.

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