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SRK, Salman, Kohli… Unlike Ronaldo, Indian celebs have endorsed junk food for years

Tobacco, cigarettes, soft drinks, junk food — Bollywood actors and Indian sports personalities have never shied away from appearing in advertisements for unhealthy items.

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New Delhi: When Portugal’s star striker Cristiano Ronaldo removed Coca-Cola bottles from a press conference last week at the Euro Cup, and endorsed drinking water instead, it spawned the birth of new memes and witty jokes on the internet.

Incidentally, Ronaldo moving the bottles also coincided with the soft drink giant losing $4 billion, which added fuel to fire.

The football player is a known health enthusiast, so it is not surprising that he advocated drinking water instead of the sugar-laden soft drink on his table.

However, this health concern is markedly absent from Indian celebrities, especially Bollywood stars. In the past, almost all top billed actors have endorsed and advertised soft drinks, junk foods, pan masalas and other ‘unhealthy food’ items and continue to do so.

Take soft drinks, for instance. Over the years, every prominent Indian celebrity, whether an actor or a sports personality, has endorsed carbonated drinks. This includes the likes of Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and several others.

The latest to join their ranks is India’s rising cricket star Shafali Verma, who scored two half centuries against England in a Test match last weekend. Verma, 16, has been roped in as one of the brand ambassadors for PepsiCo.

Also read: Ronaldo’s Coke snub is a start. Over to Indian celebs to tell us ‘darr ke aage obesity hai’

All for fizzy drinks 

Bollywood celebrities and carbonated drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi have had a long association. Several of them have graced television screens promoting these drinks in slick commercials.

Last year, actor Ranbir Kapoor played a dance instructor to promote Coca Cola in an advertisement. This is besides the many ads he was part of, with actor Paresh Rawal, to promote the drink.

Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, meanwhile, have endorsed it all — Pepsi, Coca Cola, Thums Up and Limca.

Aishwarya Rai and Aamir Khan have also in the past appeared in Coca Cola ads. So have Alia Bhatt and Siddharth Malhotra.

Aamir made the catchphrase ‘Thanda matlab Coca Cola’ immortal, which effectively led to the soft drink replacing water or lemonade as the drink that is offered to guests.

Similarly, Kumar’s prolonged endorsement of the drink Thums Up, with catchphrases like “Taste the Thunder” or “Aaj Kuch Toofani Karte Hai”, made it extremely popular with young Indians.

Even Hrithik Roshan, who is the brand ambassador of the fitness chain Cult.Fit at present, has endorsed Mountain Dew with the popular tagline, “Darr ke aage jeet hai”.

Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt have also endorsed Frooti, a mango drink with a high sugar content. And when it comes to mango drinks, Katrina Kaif has been the brand ambassador of “sabse thick, sabse tasty” Slice for years.

Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh also make it to the list of Bollywood stars who have endorsed Coca-Cola, Limca and Thums Up multiple times in the last few years.

In fact, Bollywood and Tollywood (Telugu film industry) collaborated on an advertising campaign for Thums Up, with Singh and Mahesh Babu performing daredevil stunts in the ad.

Some celebrities, however, have refused to endorse soft drinks. In 2014, Amitabh Bachchan said that he stopped endorsing Pepsi after a little girl asked him why he endorsed “poison”.

Even Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli withdrew his name from Pepsi endorsements in 2017. However, he’s currently the brand ambassador of Too Yumm Chips and Ocean One8.

Also read: ‘Asli swaad zindagi ka’ — this 90s Cadbury Dairy Milk commercial changed Indian advertising

Tobacco to Vimal Elaichi —Bollywood endorses all

It’s not just soft drinks, Indian celebrities have also happily promoted junk food items like Maggi and been brand ambassadors of pan masala companies like Vimal and Rajnigandha.

At one point, Kumar, who is now known for his fitness regime and healthy lifestyle, also endorsed cigarettes. So did Jackie Shroff.

More recently, A-listers like Shah Rukh and Ajay Devgn starred in a 60-second advertisement promoting Vimal Elaichi.

Shah Rukh has also endorsed pan masala Pan Vilas, with the tagline — “shaukh badi cheez”. Effectively, urging consumers to give in to their cravings.

In 2016, the Delhi government had even written to actors Govinda, Devgn, Arbaaz Khan and Sunny Leone urging them to refrain from endorsing pan masala items.

With the tagline, “Acchai Ki Alag Chamak Hoti Hai”, global icon Priyanka Chopra Jonas has endorsed Rajnigandha pearls. While Pan Bahar, another pan masala company with the famous tagline “Pehchan Kamyabi Ki”, boasts of brand ambassadors like Saif Ali Khan and Fardeen Khan.

‘Make it large’: Surrogate commercials for alcohol

While advertisements for alcohol are banned on Indian television, there is no dearth of surrogate commercials.

And Shah Rukh, Kumar, Devgn have also been part of these liquor commercials for the company Bagpiper — “Khub jamega rang, jab mil baithenge teen yaar. Aap, mein aur Bagpiper soda”.

Many actors have also endorsed ‘Make it large’ Royal Stag such as Ranveer Singh.

Meanwhile Vicky Kaushal has featured in a series of McDowell Platinum and Dhoni has promoted the McDowell Platinum soda — “the number one spirit of leadership”.

Moving on to junk foods, actors Saif Ali Khan, Alia Bhatt, Parineeti Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor, Juhi Chawla have all endorsed chips like Lays and Kurkure.

Madhuri Dixit, Preeti Zinta and even Amitabh Bachchan have endorsed Maggi. Earlier, Kajol used to endorse the candy Alpenliebe, in quite popular ads with an alligator, with the tagline “Lalach aajha lap lap”. 

With inputs from Shubhangi Misra

(Edited by Rachel John)

Also read: With Bappi Lahiri to Govinda, India’s ad industry is laughing at itself. Not everyone gets why


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