I was recently asked if I had watched the new Amir Khan Sting ad.
My candid response was that, yes I had seen the ad pop up on my Facebook Timeline several times, but I wasn't compelled enough to let auto-play expose it to me. I would scroll away.
Well, like most of us, I have always idealised Amir Khan as the perfect desi success story; desi man ruling in the white man's land. Pakistani and proud; representing us all. His hard work paid off and it’s inspiring and something to be proud of. The man’s a big deal in the boxing world.
But none of that really seemed relevant when the ad appeared in front of me.
I haven’t suddenly decided that his accomplishments are inconsequential, but it’s just that the past few months have exposed us to a side of Amir Khan and his life – which understandably he would want to keep private. From domestic drama to a sex tape, there's just been too much information about King Khan and while it is his business it had the effect on me not being in the most 'I want to see Amir Khan looking untouchable in an ad' mood.
And that's the tricky part. I am pretty sure neither the brand nor Amir Khan assumed throughout the process of negotiation, deal signing, shooting and editing this ad (where significant money is spent on the production and on him), that the timing of this project would clash with a vibe reminiscent of 'Keeping Up With The Khans' sorry... Kardashians.
For the record, here’s the TVC
This isn’t the first time an endorsement has gone sour. International celebrities get into trouble often enough and with not so positive consequences.Tiger Woods being the most top of mind for the majority. Woods: the golden child of the sports world, who could do no wrong with his family man image and unmatched skills. But wrong he did, and when his Pandora’s box of infidelities was unleashed, brands scrambled to disassociate with him. Some stood by him, but the damage was done, especially for brands like the consulting firm Accenture.
Accenture had based all its marketing on an association with Woods, trying to convey the message that it is a trustworthy company that makes good decisions. Awkward much? They used symbolic golf imagery and references to get this message across with the tagline, ‘Go On, Be a Tiger!’ When the scandal broke, the premise of the campaign and the use of Woods failed.
For the most part, I haven’t observed much backlash for him locally. For the sake of seeing people’s reactions to the ad, I went and watched it. It’s a good-looking film. Nothing novel about it, but with the gorgeous ‘can’t go wrong with’ Old City visuals of Lahore and some pretty edgy music pacing the film, it’s an easy watch. The production quality is on point. Fans love the film. They love him. And if there is an instance where anyone has raised criticism, it’s over his endorsing an energy drink that in today’s internet/info savvy world, we all know is loaded with sugar. It’s definitely not something an athlete would drink. But that’s it. No one is discussing his personal life, his family drama or that there are now videos of him online that suggest he wasn’t the most faithful of husbands. Good for him. Personally, as someone who looked upon Woods with mild reverence, I wasn’t very invested in the drama.
However, I have had too much exposure to Amir Khan. Yet, this seems to be a personal opinion. I don’t see any disapproval coming from his fan base, and the brand did not seem to hesitate about going ahead with the endorsement. I’m sure if we were in a country where the public actually held its stars, politicians or icons accountable, and brands were actually impacted by it, Amir Khan’s negative press may have been an issue. Maybe then the brand would have delayed the release for a month or two or even disassociated itself from Amir Khan. But not in this case. Not here.
While I and others like me might need time and space to become interested in Amir Khan again, it doesn’t matter to the brand. I am not the intended target for Sting. I don’t necessarily fit into the consumer profile so how I or others who share my take on this situation feel, doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect on the brand or the celebrity. There seem to be certain situations that don’t fall in line with strategies.
Khizra Munir is CEO, CoPakistan. email@example.com