Ziva Dhoni just signed her first endorsement. Mondelez, the chocolate company, took to Instagram to make the ‘monumental’ announcement and give ‘excited’ fans a glimpse of the ‘dashing’ Ziva and her ‘illustrious’ dad, noting, ‘Look who's entered the field to play!’. Yes, indeed, who?!
Ziva, by the way, is a social media celebrity already with a whopping 1.8 million followers on Instagram, while the former team India skipper, her dad MS Dhoni has 30 million. Ziva's Instagram account is handled by her mom Sakshi. With such a large following at this tender age (she is five, going six), the endorsement deal is no surprise, moreso since it comes bundled with the dad’s fame and franchise. The soon-to-be-6 Ziva, and her soon-to-be-40 daddy will promote Oreo biscuits.
Mondelez yesterday shared a video featuring Ziva enjoying the Oreos with pop Dhoni. MSD and Ziva can be seeing having fun with Oreo cookies; the brand’s social media post reads, “@mahi7781 and @ziva_singh_dhoni have signed up for the #OreoPlayPledge to add more play to their lives. Have you? Click the link in our bio and take your pledge for more fun with the fam!”.
I don’t know about other families having fun, but the Dhonis really must be delighted as the youngest Dhoni is rumoured to have taken home an eight-figure endorsement fee!
Post Ziva’s endorsement sign-up, the much coochy-cooed Taimur Ali Khan and his star parents, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saif Ali Khan must really be suffering from a massive inferiority complex! Poor Taimur has only 1,36,000 followers on Instagram. There is certainly need for urgent catch up there. But Taimur should thank Ziva, two years her elder, for setting the precedent on star kiddos joining the endorsement game early. With mom Kareena due to deliver his younger sibling, I am sure young Taimur too is going to be getting an endorsement soon... there must be so many baby-mummy products ready with scripts that would have a place for the debonair (WIP) Taimur. But no, Taimur’s mom Kareena (Bebo to those close to her) only recently posted on Taimur’s fourth birthday, “My child... I’m happy at four you have such determination, dedication and focus on what you want to do... which is now picking up the haystack and feeding the cow... God bless you my hardworking boy... but on the way, don’t forget to taste the snow, pluck flowers, jump up and down, climb trees and of course eat all your cake...”.
Oops! Now how is young Taimur going to play brand ambassador if he has to taste the snow, pluck flowers, jump up and down, climb trees and of course eat all his cake? Difficult choice.
To be fair, many of Hollywood’s most famous names started very young in the world of glitz with ads for famous brands. Elijah Wood, Elisabeth Moss, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Britney Spears, Tobey Maguire, Mila Kunis, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sarah Michelle Gellar all sold brands as diverse as Porsche to Burger King to Tropicana as youngsters.
In India too, Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia featured in Complan ads as kids, while a young Varun Dhawan too sold Bournvita as a child. But in the case of all the Hollywood stars, and even the Indians, their ages were well into double digits before they faced the camera. Ziva really is starting much too early.
Which brings us to the million dollar question: should the Dhonis really get their still-not-six-years-old daughter to feature in an ad at such a tender age? Sure, she is already famous: she was reportedly at No. 8 in the rankings for kids with the largest Instagram followers worldwide. Or was the following being assiduously built just to provide the platform for Ziva’s launch?
We were in Dublin in the summer of 2018. India were playing Ireland and we were there to enjoy the cricket. MS Dhoni was the only member of the Indian team accompanied by his wife Sakshi and daughter Ziva. There were no outsiders allowed at the hotel. We were the only family privileged to be staying at the team hotel besides the players. So, I had opportunity to watch the Dhoni family up close over the one week we were there. MSD was a doting father, sometimes bringing the daughter to breakfast without her mother, and then feeding her cereal spoon by spoon, and negotiating every piece of toast that the little princess would majestically agree to finally eat. Sakshi was very possessive about her cute little girl, warding off the few paparazzi who hung around the hotel. To me, they looked the perfect family. And she a happy, chirpy child.
Why drag her before the cameras? For fame? But she’s already famous. She was born to fame. For money? Nawww. The Dhonis are dripping with money. For fun? No no no. It can’t be fun for any child that age to be under those arclights. Then why?
I have the same question to ask Mondelez? Would the Oreo story become more authentic and real if Dhoni was featured with his real daughter? Would more kids buy Oreo because Ziva Dhoni (yes, THAT Ziva Dhoni) is endorsing the biscuit? Methinks Mondelez used Ziva because her presence in the ad ensured them a stronger PR peg… both media and social media would get buzzy. Which would perhaps make for a more visible launch for the biscuit.
Personally, I think Ziva’s parents ought to put a stop to any further starry appearances. They should allow her a normal childhood. As it is being the daughter (and right now only daughter) is tough enough. As MSD’s daughter she will always remain in the media glare. By making her a star now in her own right, the Dhonis shouldn’t make it worse for her.
Ziva Dhoni deserves a childhood. A without-a-care-in-the-world childhood. Mr. & Mrs. Dhoni, don’t steal it.
Dr. Sandeep Goyal is the chief mentor of the Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB). He is always very candid with his views.
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