With the Bollywood industry coming under the scanner amid mounting allegations of drug abuse during the investigation into Sushant Singh Rajput’s death, a recent study revealed that viewers considered drug abuse as a big negative for the celebrities’ image and brand endorsements.
The Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) conducted a telephonic survey over September 12-13 to understand the sentiment of youth between the ages of 18-30 (251 male and 236 female). The survey was regarding drug abuse by Indian celebrities and asked the respondents if they would buy products endorsed by celebrities found guilty. The IIHB survey comes against the backdrop of Rhea Chakraborty’s sensational disclosures on drug abuse in Bollywood.
Out of the 487 respondents surveyed, nearly 82% youngsters in the 18-30 year age bracket said drug abuse by celebrities made them ‘untrustworthy’, and they would not buy a brand endorsed by such celebrities. Nearly 92% of the respondents said they were aware of the names disclosed over the past week. The report indicated that the respondents had near zero tolerance for drug tainted celebrities endorsing brands. When asked if the rampant drug abuse would make celebrities untrustworthy for brand endorsements, an overwhelming 88% of the respondents said that brands using such celebrities would lose their credibility, and they might stop trusting such brands anymore.
Th is survery also indicated that the news of involvement in drug abuse for celebrities like Sara Ali Khan and Rakul Preet Singh named by Rhea Chakraborty in her statement to NCB, would deal a huge blow to their careers and also hurt their image in the long run. A majority of the respondents recalled Sara and Rakul’s names the most along with Rhea Chakraborty and Simone Khambatta.
When asked if a celebrity would be guilty just because of being named in media, nearly 60% of the respondents said there was no smoke without a fire. At least 22% said that the absence of a rebuttal or denial by Sara or Rakul implied an affirmation.
‘Love Aaj Kal’ star Sara Ali Khan is currently considered to be the favourite of advertisers and is involved in a slew of endorsements. She currently endorses Fanta, Puma, Vivo, JBL, Ceriz, Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri (TBZ), Veet, ITC’s Fiama, Garnier and few other brands.
For Rakul Preet too, the allegations would dent her reputation at a time when she has been planning to go mainstream in Bollywood for some time.
Rakul who charges Rs 1.5 crore per endorsement, more than contemporaries Kajal Agarwal, Tamannaah and Shruti Haasan, currently endorses Elleys’ switches, the Telangana Govt’s ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ campaign and Vaibhav Jewellers, besides others would see a drop in clients choosing her face for their brand products, said the report.
“The drug abuse allegations could devastate the celebrity landscape,” said Dr. Sandeep Goyal, chief mentor, IIHB, who holds a PhD from FMS-Delhi in studying celebrities. “Drugs create a halo of negativity, by-and-large not condoned by society. What would be interesting is so to see how brand managers react. With 25 celebrities on the NCB list, a lot of reputations may get impacted,” he added.
The survey also highlighted that names of many other Bollywood, cricket and television celebrities. Respondents said they came to know of these names from various ‘informed’ sources, friends and social media groups. However, the report did not disclose the names of such personalities.
The report further added that 89% respondents felt that drug abuse was negative and not acceptable in Indian society. They were almost unanimous in saying that drug use as a whole was unethical. Surprisingly, a majority of the respondents said they did not find the news of drug usage by celebrities shocking and generally believed that celebrities and drugs were synonymous. However, nearly 70% of the respondents said that such behaviour was ‘disturbing’.