Surrogate Marketing is a requirement of all alcohol/cigarette brands in countries where it is prohibited by law to directly advertise addictive products such as alcoholic beverages and cigarettes in mass media. It is a strategy which refers to the indirect way in which companies advertise their products, and use minor loopholes in the law to still achieve the basic marketing objectives of building brands, creating customer associations and promoting brands. They do this by associating the same brand names to other ‘acceptable’ products, ranging from sodas to music CDs !!
India too falls under the category of countries who have prohibited advertising of alcoholic beverages, but still companies and brands make their own efforts to do the same. So let us see what the four major players in the Indian markets are doing about this:
Diageo has built associations with its brands Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker. Smirnoff with its cult associations with electronic music with events such as ‘War of the DJs‘, Nightlife Exchanges etc, and Johnnie Walker with its famous advertisements on ‘Keep Walking‘ with celebrity achievers such as Vijay Amritraj and Narayan Murthy, successfully associating Johnnie Walker with success and also making the brand logo well known (the famous ‘Striding Man‘ logo, which also has a society in its name – the Striding Man society, for Johnnie walker drinkers)
2. Sab Miller
Sab Miller has been promoting Haywards 5000 with campaigns featuring Bollywood actors such as Sunil Shetty and Sanjay Dutt. The catch of course is that they are shown to be promoting Haywards 5000 soda, and not the beverage. And soda promotion is perfectly acceptable. Observe one of the ads below:
Also, there have been campaigns building an association between their brand Fosters and Australia.
Many can recall the Bacardi ads of yore with the famous Bacardi Music! Again, it was not the beverage brand that was being promoted. The direct promotion was for the Bacardi Soda and the Music CDs, but indirectly, a brand name for Bacardi was built.(Check out the lyrics of their most popular song here: it does talk about Bacardi Rum, but then, when the music is being promoted, you can’t contest the lyrics!)
Trivia: Bacardi has also created a ‘cocktail mixer’ app for iphone . This is not surrogate advertising though, just indirect.
4. UB Group
United Breweries is the group which has really exploded the restrictions, expanding surrogate methods of branding in all directions imaginable. Let’s list down where all they are present:
Kingfisher has the most diverse set of surrogates floating around: a) Kingfisher Airlines (even though it is a full fledged business with a monetary interest); b) Kingfisher Calender; c) Kingfisher bird as a part of the logo of NDTV Good Times (co-branding) d) shows on ‘making of the calendar‘ on NDTV Good Times etc. Vijay Mallya himself is a popular brand ambassador now for the company.
A host of ads on Bagpiper soda, featuring Akshay Kumar and a few others, with the now-famous tagline: ‘khoob jamega rang jab mil baithenge 3 yaar – aap, main aur bagpiper‘ – again, promoting Bagpiper soda.
c) Royal Challenge:
A major property in the form of Royal Challengers Bangalore playing in IPL.
d) Whyte and Mackay: nothing notable apart from being present on the RCB IPL jerseys
e) White Mischief: an indirect promotion through the White Mischief holidays, and also through the RCB cheerleaders
So the above was a snapshot on what all the liquor companies are doing in India, trying to spread awareness about their brands through indirect means and mechanisms. Of these, some are full fledged business interests, such as Kingfisher airlines, RCB in IPL, White Mischief Holidays etc (this seems to be Mallya’s promotion strategy).
Surrogate marketing is definitely here to stay, because the prohibition is unlikely to be removed any time soon, and alcohol companies would likely never cease to exist. And as long as both business interests and restrictions remain, surrogate marketing will thrive.