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Tata Motors Appoints Lionel Messi as Brand Ambassador

... Business-Standard:

occer great will become the face of Tata Motors' portfolio. The Argentinian becomes the first brand ambassador of the company in its 70-year history. Messi plays for Barcelona in the La Liga.

The Mumbai-based company has signed a two-year agreement (with the option to expand further) with the ace footballer for endorsing Tata Motors' range of passenger vehicles in India and in the international markets.

The first player to win three European Golden Shoe awards, Messi will be the 'agent of change' for Tata Motors, aiming to reclaim its lost position in the Indian market backed by a series of new products, innovative sales programmes and customer reach initiatives.

Mayank Pareek, president, passenger vehicle business unit, said, "If we look at Indian celebrities, most are over-exposed. Some are doing 20-25 brands together. We need somebody other than cricket and Bollywood, somebody who has not done anything popular in India but is a well-known face. ISL (Indian Super League) has actually brought in a new audience. With Messi, we found an immediate connect as he is not just popular in Tier I but Tier II and III cities as well."

Tata Motors' new advertising campaign with the 28-year-old Messi will kick-start on Tuesday, a statement from said on Monday. There will a 360 degree approach with regards to the association, which could also mean on-ground promotion. While Pareek declined to specify details about endorsement fee charged by Messi, he said, "...the amount is not that huge (when compared with the fee charged by star golfer from Hero MotoCorp)".

Market watchers estimate the Messi deal to be between Rs 12-15 crore, which is only marginally higher than that charged by Bollywood actors Shah Rukh Khan and Ranbir Kapoor. This is not the first time though that an international celebrity would be endorsing an Indian brand (see table).

World's best known golfer Tiger Woods struck a four-year deal with India's largest two-wheeler manufacturer landing a Rs 200 crore endorsement fee in late 2014. Tennis star Maria Sharapova and Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman were roped in by real estate company Homestead and handset maker Micromax for around Rs 9-10 crore deal, respectively.

"We started with brand excellence a year back. We needed to be customer centric. We had to make sure we had good products in the pipeline. We needed to work on the brand. There has been a certain brand erosion. We need to recreate a position. We did our brand assessment and found that we had three key attributes - being trustworthy, pioneering and being cool. We needed to work on being cool. Cool to us is being effortlessly confident and, successful with a differentiated attitude," added Pareek

For Tata Motors associating with a celebrity is a first in its decades-long history. Always preferring to avoid celebrity association, the company had always maintained that 'its customers were its true ambassadors' and so 'did not need an outsider celebrity to endorse its products'.

However, with its new line of products such as the Bolt and Zest - launched more than a year ago - garnering lukewarm response, the company has to make sure that its upcoming products do not meet a similar fate. Tata Motors has been trying to reposition itself as a brand appealing to young and enthusiastic Indians even as it tries to rid itself of the legacy of manufacturers of taxi and commercial cars like Indica, Indigo and Sumo.

Passenger vehicle sales of Tata Motors have been in decline for the last few years. The company reported a volume decline of three per cent in FY15, thanks to weak sales of Nano and Indica. Volume growth has picked up since the launch of Zest and Bolt. Tata Motors has been facing issues not only in the domestic market but also at Jaguar Land Rover in the last couple of quarters. In the first quarter, the company's net profit fell 49 per cent to Rs 2,768 crore. Declining sales of Jaguar Land Rover in China and a less favourable product mix has impacted consolidated net revenues, which declined six per cent compared to the corresponding quarter last year to Rs 61,020 crore. The association with Messi has come at very crucial juncture for the company. Tata Motors is preparing to launch three new products in the market in the coming months. These will be the all-new hatchback Kite, a compact sedan on the same platform and a new compact SUV.

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