Bollywood stars make glamour pay


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When it emerged that Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor had in the same week signed up to be the celebrity face of a property firm and a line of Indian beauty products, it did not merit front-page news.

The 30-year-old film star – "a benchmark for confidence", according to one report – already endorses about 20 other products and is known for promoting everything from phone services to laptop computers. Such a lucrative portfolio certainly places her in the upper league of celebrity endorsers.

Remarkably, there are a few of her colleagues from the stratospheric heights of the movie and sporting worlds who put their names to even more products.

A few years ago, a number of top male stars represented dozens of items – all at the same time.

In India, the role of so-called "brand ambassadors" is a growing industry worth an estimated £280m, and one that has surged in the past five years.

It also appears to operate with a different internal logic to similar advertising elsewhere in the world. In the West celebrity endorsers might worry about over-exposure, but in India it appears that leading stars can advertise dozens of products without fear of diluting their own brand equity.

"There is no science to it," said Manish Porwal, an advertising-industry analyst who has, over the years, tracked the relative endorsement power of Indian celebrities. "We thought the consumer would be irritated by seeing [a celebrity] all the time. Apparently, he is not."

Almost all celebrities in the top 10 of endorsers are involved in multiple brands, from beauty products to mobile phones. Yet few members of the public say that they suffer from over-exposure.

Analysts say that more research is required of the endorsement and advertising industry. "It is very rare that people will ask whether the celebrity will have the right impact," said Siddhartha Mukherjee, of the TAM media research company. "It's purely a gut thing," he added.