Vivo Mobiles has temporarily stopped airing ads featuring brand ambassador Virat Kohli on television and social media platforms till the time the Chinese mobile phone maker faces scrutiny by investigative agencies over money laundering charges, executives aware of the development said.
“Planned advertising and promotion activities involving Kohli are being put on hold till there is clarity on where the investigation is headed,” one of the executives said. Another executive said Kohli’s team, too, was uncomfortable about the former Indian cricket captain being shown in Vivo ads for the time being. “This is also to protect Virat from criticism,” he said. The executives did not wish to be named.
An email query addressed to Vivo India remained unanswered till press time. Queries sent to Cornerstone Sport, the talent management company that manages Kohli’s portfolio, too, failed to elicit a response.
Industry observers said the pause was the “logical option” for the time being.
ED Glare on Vivo
Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and formerly heading marketing at PepsiCo and Hewlett Packard, said, “Decision to pause commercial activity linking a national icon with a brand under intense government scrutiny, is always appropriate. Kohli, with his massive reach and influence on consumers, should not be seen being linked with a brand under such serious allegations as Vivo is currently facing.”
The Enforcement Directorate conducted searches across 48 premises belonging to Vivo and 23 associated companies in connection with money laundering over the past few days.
The Chinese manufacturer on Friday appealed in Delhi High Court against ED freezing its bank accounts. In its petition, Vivo said the central agency continues to make “various attempts to disrupt” its business.
Vivo signed Kohli as its brand ambassador in April 2021. At the time of signing, Vivo had said the association will include advertising across platforms, promotions, events and social media campaigns.
Kohli is India’s highest paid celebrity endorser, giving his name to about 30 brands across sectors, including Vivo, Audi luxury cars, American Tourister luggage, Puma sportswear, Tissot watches, Myntra fashion, Go Digit general insurance and Hyperice wellness.
Vivo is the second-largest smartphone brand in India. It looks to target a large set of customers with appeal for lifestyle products. Xiaomi leads the market with 22% share, while Vivo had 18% of the market in terms of shipments in May, a 3% growth month-on-month, according to Counterpoint Research.
Last month, Kohli became the first Indian to cross 200 million followers on social media platform Instagram, a key matrix for brands to choose individuals for endorsements. The former India captain, known for his aggression on and off the field, is also the third most followed sportsperson on Instagram.
Portuguese soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed sportsperson, with 464 million followers, with Argentina football star Lionel Messi coming next, with 346 million followers.
Kohli, 33, topped the list of India’s most valuable celebrities, with a brand value at $185.7 million in 2021, data and insights company Duff & Phelps said in its celebrity brand valuation report released in March this year. The report said that though Kohli topped the list for the fifth consecutive time, his brand value dropped significantly over the previous year. English Times