In a film industry valued at $11.68 billion (Dh43bn), only a handful of stars have managed to realise the true potential of India's money-spinning Bollywood enterprise. Fewer still are marketing houses and celebrity couples that have cashed in on this integrated brand power through multi-million dollar film deals and endorsement contracts.
However, the landscape got a makeover a few years ago when branding heads in India suddenly went on a signing spree, cashing in on the united powerhouse of Bollywood duos with frenzy and gusto that saw Shah Rukh Khan and wife Gauri sign on for furnishing store D’Decor, while the Abhishek-Aishwarya Rai Bachchan pairing was roped in by Lux.
Not one to be left behind, the Amitabh-Jaya Bachchan brand power also got an added sparkle as the duo signed on to endorse Tanishq jewellery, while Ajay Devgn and Kajol opted for Tata Indicom.
Yet, even as this united front raked in the cash, branding experts were constantly searching for a more bankable, yet spunky real-life pairing, which could transport the same spirit to reel-life.
Enter brand ‘Saifeena’, which has slowly, but steadily been raking up the individual and combined endorsement deals to make Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor emerge as India's most prolific and powerful star pairing of this decade.
The current marriage is only lending more credibility to the chemistry that the duo shares when endorsing Metro Shoes or Head and Shoulders.
Touted as the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie of Bollywood, few can believe that Khan, who was once written off as a wooden actor, today demands movie deals that value at a whopping Rs300 million (Dh23m) if not more.
Kareena on the other hand has become the endorsement queen of celebrity land, becoming the face of numerous brands, including the Sony Viao 'Size Zero' range of laptops – a term she immortalised when she dropped down to the dress size for the damp squib, 'Tashan'.
And even though Sony India is yet to decide whether Kareena will be part of its next advertising campaign for its Vaio range of notebooks, they are hoping to repeat the magic, telling reporters earlier this week that her presence doubled their sales in the past two years alone.
“Our next marketing and advertising campaign is still on drawing board which will be unveiled by October end (for Vaio range of laptops)...we will see how we can link her (Kareena) up (with new range)...we will decide," company’s Senior General Manager (Head Sales), Sunil Nayyar told reporters this week.
Nayyar said that after roping in Kareena as brand ambassador two years back, the sale of Sony's range of Vaio range of laptops have doubled.
“Kareena factor is just doubling our sales (of Vaio range)...she has been doing wonders (for the company)," he said.
He added: “Hopefully she should continue (as brand ambassador)..she is doing a good job.” Sony India renews contract for brand ambassador on annual basis, he said.
Kareena had told Emirates 24|7 earlier: “Signing on for Sony Viao was easy considering it is such a prestigious brand. The company heads were looking for someone who could personify their 'size zero' tagline. I simply fit the bill considering the hype over my body in 'Tashan'. Of course, when the Japanese guys met me, their reaction was, 'she's not so slim. So why are we choosing her again?'"
Even as the newly married couple bask in the afterglow of their union, between them, the Saifeena brand is already leading the endorsements race in India with nearly 20 brands to their combined portfolio, with companies reportedly paying up to Rs500m to shoot a 45-seconds promotional campaign featuring the pair together.
This figure is reportedly double of what star couple Abhishek and Aishwarya were paid for appearing together in the Lux soap commercial.
Yet, dangling the money carrot does not provide easy access to their combined star power, Kapoor is always quick to point out.
Speaking earlier, she said: "Just because we are a couple does not make us a package deal for companies or filmmakers, "There are few brands that are jointly endorsed by Saif and myself. Frankly, each one has 10-15 brands we handle separately and we really don't have the need or the time to make guest appearances in the other's portfolio."
Move over Khans and Bachchans
However, guest appearances aside, Kareena alone has become the highest paid actress in India, having allegedly raked in Rs800m for ‘Heroine’, while a recent endorsement deal saw her make Rs500m for an Indian lemonade brand for 45-second commercial spots.
In comparison, Aishwarya has all but disappeared from the limelight post the birth of her daughter, while Shah Rukh’s wife, Gauri only manages Rs1.5m for making a half an hour appearance at events.
Saif, meanwhile, appears to be gaining with his stylish persona, along with the fact that Shah Rukh is fast losing connect with India’s youth to keep him as the king of endorsement deals.
In fact, in a recent report in Times of India, Manish Porwal, MD, Alchemist, a talent management agency in India said: "Controversy does not make for good brand endorsers and any marketer will keep away from a celebrity like that. Besides the controversies that have courted him [Shah Rukh] recently, what is a bigger concern is that he is ageing and that does not bode well for multiple brands in India that want a youth connect.”
The controversies include a night club brawl with director Shirish Kunder and a scuffle with officials at a Mumbai cricket stadium to his credit.
As for Abhishek, cynics called his Lux ad a desperate ploy to boost his flagging star power.
One has to wait and see how the marriage will affect brand Saifeena in the coming months, but if anything, the couple truly knows how to make lemonade from the lemons that life has dished out to them as united brand.