- Sonu Sood recently received UNDP’s Special Humanitarian Action Award.
- He has emerged as a knight in shining armour and been applauded for his humanitarian work to send thousands of stranded migrants back home during the lockdown.
- His rising affinity on social media has also helped him get popular in the brandverse.
- We speak to experts to find out if the recognition from UNDP will finally help get Sonu Sood longer brand deals and bigger brands now.
Sonu Sood, who plays an antagonist in most of his movies, is becoming India’s hero in real life. On September 30, he was honoured with the Special Humanitarian Action Award by the United Nations Development Programme for his selfless efforts to help people in challenging times.
In the beginning of the lockdown, Sood and his team launched an initiative called #GharBhejoAbhiyaan that helped thousands of migrants who were longing to come back home. He later launched #
PravasiRojgar to help jobless migrants find a job and restore their livelihoods. He sent a few smartphones to students in Haryana who couldn’t afford online classes and helped students stranded across the globe return to the country safely.
Soon, newspapers made special cartoons on him to celebrate the knight in shining armour and #Isupporttheherosonusood started trending on Twitter.
It is for his philanthropic work that Sood is becoming popular even in the brandverse. Indian brands like Pepsi, Lay’s, Tata Tea Premium, Stayfree India, Edelweiss Tokio Life, Godrej Interio, WhiteHat Jr, ZEE5, to name a few, have approached him to help spread awareness on different social causes.
Even in his brand work, Sood has spoken about the importance of wearing a mask, recognising everyday warriors around us, supporting local craftsmen, etc. Since he acted like a
‘Vighnaharta’ during the lockdown, Mangaldeep Agarbatti also approached him during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Sonu Sood’s relief efforts for the migrants during the COVID-19 lockdown earned him praise from all quarters. He emerged a hero for his selfless, kind-hearted efforts for the community. It was due to his selfless image and uniqueness that brands started capitalizing on his growing popularity. Ergo, his brand value is also increasing subsequently. According to media reports, Sood is worth $17 million. However, it was only in early September that Acer signed a long-term deal with him.
Sharing why the brand decided to on-board Sood, Sooraj Balakrishnan, Head-Marketing, Acer India said, “Apart from his exemplary work in cinemas where he is a well-renowned actor cutting across India, Sonu Sood has stood out in 2020 as an example of selfless service and humanitarian work that positively impacted and benefited thousands, if not lakhs of people in need during the pandemic. His contribution to empowering people echoes with Acer India’s brand mantra of empowering people through technology.”
Balakrishnan agreed that Sood’s rising popularity is an indication that the consumers are looking for honest and real work now.
He said, “People are looking for brands and public figures who have a purpose to make positive changes with honest and real work. Glamour alone will not sell and people like Sonu have really used his position for the good of people. I can vouch for his humbleness, genuine passion to help, and dedication to the cause during my interactions with him. Acer is proud to have him as our brand ambassador and we wish him more recognition for his work.”
Apart from trust, caring, empathetic, relatability, and style, Kalyan Ram Challapalli, Chief Strategist and Founder, WolfzHowl Strategic Instigations, said one should also note his Bollywood-led personality attributes to evaluate him as a brand endorser. he is known for a good body (with muscles etc;), a sense of style (fashion) etc
Challapalli said, “Brand Sonu Sood can also include attributes of health, fitness, style and fashion. In addition to this whether it is his “Arundhati” (Telugu – Tollywood Blockbuster) villain portrayal or other such south movies, he also has some traction in South Indian Movies and hence South of India as well (usually not a easy feat for a character artiste to achieve). Hence, Sonu Sood as brand ambassador represents trust, empathy, style, fitness and a pan-national appeal. But with the masses. Hence categories he can be used as a brand ambassador for are possibly: Agri-Fintech, Micro-Finance, Health Foods, Sports and Fitness Categories, Fashion category etc; But at a mass and masstige segments level.”
Keeping these attributes in mind, Challapalli said that he can endorse brands in mass and masstige categories.
“He can also represent “return to roots” desi culture brands across consumer segments. As a brand ambassador he can take “Ayurvedic or Indian natural products based health – Immunity” to both the higher economic strata consumers and the lower economic strata consumers. He can also be a good brand ambassador for democratisation of Insurance, or home loans, or even mutual funds to the masses and to ‘Bharat’,” said Challapalli.
Sonu Sood’s social currency
Harish Bijoor, Brand-Strategy expert and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc pointed out that the audience on social media is looking for real heroes now.
Bijoor said, “Sonu Sood is the new hero. The new hero of a new generation that is driven more by social media accolades than traditional media praise. Social media seems to recognise the real star as opposed to the promoted star. This works for Sonu Sood. He and his image is pushed by an army of social media participants who chase the real as opposed to the made up.”
Sood has 7.3 million followers on Instagram and 4.1 on Twitter. He became the talk of the town during the lockdown. As a result, his popularity on Google Search also peaked. The top searched topics included Sonu Sood Help, Sonu Sood Scholarship,
During the period of January to September 2020, Sood was the most searched term in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttrakhand, Telegana respectively.
(Values are calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is the location with the most popularity as a fraction of total searches in that location, a value of 50 indicates a location which is half as popular.)
Sood’s impact on brand’s social image
How will getting someone like Sonu Sood, who is a humanitarian influence, help how people look at a brand?
Archana Jain, Founder and MD, PR Pundit, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a deep impact on consumers. Consumer attitudes are changing. New socio-economic behavioural patterns are being witnessed. Global discourse centered around purpose and ethics is taking centre stage and scoring high on relevance in an increasingly values-driven world. An association with Sonu Sood therefore helps brands raise their bar on trust and dependability. Brands are able to foster a meaningful connection with the informed and empowered consumers and attach themselves to the value proposition of humaneness (demonstrated by his philanthropic work).”
On how brands are looking for rays of hope in unsung heroes, Jain added, “Universally, people seek heroes in times of distress. With the heightened interest around all-things COVID-19, many brands have been shining the spotlight on heroes who have contributed selflessly for the betterment of society. Some have singled out the unsung warriors and some acknowledged personalities. Sonu Sood will always be remembered as the knight in shining armour who came to save thousands in need in their bleak times.”
N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research said, “When someone achieves popularity by the work done, a reputation builds around the person – which is transmitted beliefs about respect. This transmitted belief spreads as more many hear about the person, also driving the person to try and achieve greater heights. Brands are self-centered in their approach, and naturally do not take Sonu Sood as an ambassador because of their philanthropic nature, but instead so that his ‘goodness’ rubs on them too. He has already been seen as a ‘messiah’, and even non-migrant travel or food based requests come to him, sometimes for books for education or to help a poor farmer’s family. Since he has been open and accessible to most such requests, he has become an icon for the poor and needy. This is suff is like a movie-story, and he, the hero who is a do-gooder for society. Brands may not use him in PR too directly, primarily because it will not be appropriate to be seen directly promoting a brand by talking about it. Instead, advertising is slightly more distanced from PR, and therefore his presence as a brand’s ambassador, is something that will look more appropriate. PR, as we often say, is essentially a trust building tool, and for Sonu, he has already built all the trust by demonstrating firmness of action.”
Will recognition from UNDP help get Sonu Sood more brand deals now?
Chandramouli said that Sonu Sood will be now known internationally, which might help him get more brand recognition.
He said, “With UNDP’s award he joins an exclusive group of international actors in different UN awards who have contributed to society beyond their call of duty, and his name will become more global. He will also come in the consideration sets of international brands which are looking at India as one of their key markets. Being a household name in India, brands will be able to reach their consumers through his endorsements.”
Challapalli said that Sonu Sood will get more brands now. However, he is more likely to be approached by massy brands than aspirational.