Charulata Patel, the 87-years old Kenyan born grandmom of Indian origin from London who endeared herself to Indian cricket fans at Edgbaston earlier this week, hugging-kissing-blessing Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, has just signed with cola-maker Pepsi for an ad that is already in the making!
A digital post yesterday announced ‘Coming Soon Pepsi’s Swag Star’ with a picture of Superfan Charulata merrily blowing her now-famous yellow vuvuzela. It was not just a social media tribute to the effervescent Patel, but was followed soon by an announcement by a Pepsi spokesperson that Pepsi is proud to collaborate with her for a unique digital campaign which will pay tribute to the undying spirit of the Indian cricket fan.
“Pepsi salutes the undying Swag of the Indian cricket fan and is honoured to bring the story of the unassailable Swag of Charulata Patel, an 87 year old cricket fan. Her passion for the game shows the world that age is no bar when it comes to living life in the moment; it is uninhibited, confident and full of Swag,” the spokesperson said. Now is that smart opportunism? Maximising the moment? I would like to call it ‘momentary’ marketing.
In the 35 years that I have been in advertising, I have seen numerous examples of what earlier used to be called ‘topical’ advertising and today has new lexicon that defines it as ‘moment marketing’. What used to be an almost exclusive preserve of Amul once-upon-a-time, with the arrival (and ready availability) of digital apertures is a domain that many more brands have jumped onto. Social media was flooded with congratulatory ads when Prithvi Shaw scored his maiden test century; Yuvraj Singh’s retirement also triggered an avalanche … tens of brands jostled each other to congratulate him. Each brand was obviously trying to juice out the occasion: somehow piggyback the news-worthy happening (or celebrity) and bask in the adulation of the moment. Shaw in fact was so cut-up about the ‘passing-off’ of a connect to him by various brands that he shot off legal notices to the likes of Swiggy and Freecharge.
But the Charulata-Pepsi Swag story has taken the capitalising-on-the-moment to a much higher elevation. True, the 87-years old superfan is the epitome of ‘swag’ at her age, which is the underlying theme of the Pepsi advertising this season. Also true that she transcends barriers of age and gender. Even more true that she embodies the spirit of cricket and its billion-strong fandom. The worldwide media coverage of Charulata Patel with Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma on the biggest battleground of cricket, the World Cup, one thought would give her momentary fame. Flicker. Applause. Gone. But the Pepsi endorsement deal now makes the moment much bigger, more longer for her place in the limelight. Already all media today has moved from her blessing the Indian captain to celebrating her new-found status as an advertising icon. This week, for sure, Pepsi’s shoot will keep her in the headlines. And she already has tickets from Kohli to watch the Bangladesh match on Saturday and cheer for the Men in Blue. The TV cameras are sure to focus on her and her vuvuzela. So the ‘momentary’ fame is getting bigger by the day.
But ‘momentary’ could transform to ‘momentuous’ if India go onto win first the semi-finals and then the finals. The Patel signing up by Pepsi would then become a B-school case study on how to spot an opportunity in Patel; show lightning reflexes in signing her up; and then riding her stratospheric popularity to a historic victory. Were India to lift the World Cup, I can almost visualize Kohli and Sharma (and the rest of the team) bringing the trophy to Patel in the stands for a billion-strong ‘Awwww!’ chorus of ecstasy. Well, it will all depend on what the God Almighty wills … momentary or momentuous?!
Dancing Uncle Sanjeev Shrivastava was signed up by Bajaj Allianz when his social media fame hit the upper circuit. But most other such ‘momentary’ stars have failed to have a public life beyond a few days. Even Harshavardhan Nawathe who was the first-ever winner of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) was much celebrated, but was largely given a miss by brands and ad agencies. So was Priya Prakash Varrier of the celluloid wink fame. Charulata Patel has atleast given fame and digital virality a much bigger dimension.
Well, ‘momentary’ or ‘momentuous’, we will know for sure on 14 July.
For now, all I can do is to doff my hat to Charulata Patel, and say, Maa Tujhe Salaam!
Dr. Sandeep Goyal loves these little interludes that make both cricket and advertising so much more fun!