Campaign India Team
Jan 30, 2009

Mercedes, Coke reject Slumdog association

Here's a question for all of you. How much would you have paid to have your brand visible in Golden Globe winning, Screen Actor's Guild winning and Oscar nominated Slumdog Millionaire?Whatever your answer, would you believe that there are two brands who paid nothing and fought to have scenes with their brands featuring deleted from the film?Both Coke and Mercedes Benz demanded that scenes featuring their brands be excised as the brands would suffer from the association to the poverty depicted in Slumdog.

Mercedes, Coke reject Slumdog association

Here's a question for all of you. How much would you have paid to have your brand visible in Golden Globe winning, Screen Actor's Guild winning and Oscar nominated Slumdog Millionaire?

Whatever your answer, would you believe that there are two brands who paid nothing and fought to have scenes with their brands featuring deleted from the film?

Both Coke and Mercedes Benz demanded that scenes featuring their brands be excised as the brands would suffer from the association to the poverty depicted in Slumdog.

Details from Boyle, as quoted in The Times, London: "The [thing you did not see] was the Mercedes logo on that car. We had to take that off because Mercedes don't want to be associated with being in a slum. "We wanted to use a Mercedes because . . . this guy, this gangster would drive a Mercedes . . . but if you use Mercedes then clearly you have to get permission, and we asked for their permission and they refused it."

Boyle on Coke: "There is a scene where the kids are on a rubbish dump and they get offered these bottles of, er, popular fizzy drink. Not only were we not allowed to use their name, basically we had to paint over the label on the bottle as well. So we ended up paying tens of thousands of pounds painting out these symbols."

Here are two brands intensely protecting their respective equities, and, in another context, a mammoth brand which doesn't seem too bothered. Manchester United is trying to convince Sahara to sign on as their shirt sponsor – a space that will go vacant if AIG can't keep up with their payments.

I'm not a Man U fan, but I do believe most Man U fans in India would be aghast at the prospect of Sahara's logo emblazoned on Rooney's shirt. I can't see Indians queuing up to buy club jerseys if this does happen.

If Manchester United are out on a limb and don't care too much about where the money comes from and how much it hurts the brand, it's symptomatic of the Barclay's Premier League.

If each club is a brand, the Premier League is a superbrand – a superbrand that, thanks to the recessionary trends in Europe and America, is slowly but surely losing its class.

The recent takeover and sell-out of Manchester City by a convicted Thai politician, the antecedents of Roman Abramovich's riches, the negotiations in the Middle-East for a takeover of Liverpool all dilute the individual brands and the Premier League itself.

For some strange reason, clubs in the premiership refuse to acknowledge the reality that money is very difficult to come by. Instead of, therefore, cutting back on spending in sync with the new reality, they continue to spend like the billionaires that they aren't.

While selling to anyone with enough money – and there surely are a number of them around – will meet short-term objectives and ambitions, the brand itself, and the long term health of the clubs could be seriously damaged.

What if one of the owners goes to jail? What if Abramovich cuts off supplies of oil to Europe at the height of a freezing winter? What about human rights excesses in countries of the clubs owners?

As Manchester United knows well, there's more to a club's income than just the sponsorships and ticket sales. Sales of merchandise are astronomical and it might make sense for them to evaluate the decrease in sales if Sahara did, indeed, replace AIG.

Which is why the Mercedes and Coke objections become interesting. While the average brand manager would have been delighted with the seeming 'free' publicity, executives at both Benz and Coke took a deep breath to consider the dangers to the brands. There would certainly have been some short-term gain, but was that gain worth it in the context of possible long-term damage?

Source:
Campaign India

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