Sunday, April 10, 2005

It's Sehwag's doosra

A doosra-like move by Rajasthan Cooperative Dairy Federation (RCDF) to use Virender Sehwag’s double to endorse its Saras brand seems to have backfired. The recent campaign may have hoodwinked most customers but not Collage Sports, the agency that manages Sehwag’s product endorsements. It is not amused by this stunt and has threatened to follow it up with RCDF.

“It could be one of those silly campaigns seeking cheap visibility featuring Sehwag. We will send someone to Jaipur to speak to Saras and find out more about this campaign,” said Adhiraaj Singh, the firm’s GM (Marketing), from New Delhi. This is the second instance of an advertising controversy centred on Sehwag within this week. The cricketer, through Collage Sports, had earlier shot off a letter on April 3 to Pepsi demanding an apology for having used a voice – similar to Sehwag’s – that is smacked shut by Shahrukh Khan in their ongoing Oye Bubbly campaign. The move was termed as “unethical and illegal” by the firm.

RCDF, on its part, maintained it had not committed any legal blunder because the ad does not, in any way, hint at Sehwag. “Neither have we used the team’s logo on the helmet nor have we shown the bat that he uses to play,” said Hira Lal, the GM (Marketing) at RCDF. The hoardings, which have sprung up at various prominent locations in the city, feature a close-up of Jeevan Sharma, the double, in a cricketing helmet with the words Saras and “Keeps You Fit” emblazoned on them.

Sharma from Thane, who refers to himself as “Junior Sehwag”, was in town on April 19 when the campaign was shot. But it was released about two days back in tune with the rising cricket frenzy because of the current Indo-Pak ODI series. This is Sharma’s first ad campaign that plays on his remarkable likeness to the cricketer.

Meanwhile, the guilt has set in here. “Morally I feel it should not have been done. We are, in fact, pulling it down in a day or two,” Lal said. He maintained that the decision to remove them was independent of Sehwag’s notice to Pepsi and that it was conceived to be a “weeklong campaign”. RCDF had earlier thought of roping in the cricketer for supporting their brand but opted out of it because of the high cost involved.

Alok Sharma, who is an advocate at the Rajasthan High Court, said Sehwag would be well within his rights if he takes action against Saras over this issue. “The personality of a person is his or her property. Any move to derive commercial benefit out of that without the person’s permission is illegal,” he said.

One of my reports for Hindustan Times


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