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Tata Motors appoints Lionel Messi as global brand ambassador

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Tata Motors appoints Lionel Messi as global brand ambassador

Livemint:  November, 2015

Mumbai: Ace footballer Lionel Messi will endorse Tata cars and utility vehicles (UVs) in India and globally, Tata Motors Ltd said in a statement on Monday. The decision to appoint a brand ambassador, for the first time, comes as the maker of Nano, Indica, Safari, Zest and Bolt brands struggles to connect with the young, upwardly mobile car buyers in a competitive car market, where rivals such as Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Hyundai Motor India Ltd and Honda Cars Ltd have had greater success.

The idea behind engaging Messi is to “break from the clutter”, said Mayank Pareek, president of the passenger vehicle business unit at Tata Motors.

“The connect with Messi, who personifies excellence and self belief will be immediate and the effect a multiplier one,” he said.

This is the first time the firm’s passenger vehicle business will launch a campaign with a star brand ambassador. The first campaign will roll out on Tuesday.

Pareek said the association with Messi, who has a global appeal, is also part of a plan to expand the Tata Motors footprint in newer markets. This is the first campaign in the series and many more will unfold, Pareek said. He declined to comment on the cost being incurred on the campaign.

Conceptualized by Tata Motors and Soho Square Advertising and Marketing Communications, the creative team for the campaign is led by Kunal Jeswani, Anuraag Khandelwal and Satish deSa. It has been directed by Daniel Ben Mayor and shot in Barcelona, the company said.

Avik Chatopadhyay, an independent brand consultant, said while the association with Messi “may work beautifully” in all football loving regions, including North and South Africa, South-East Asia, in India, it may do little to help the brand. “The problem here is much deeper,” said Chatopadhyay, adding that Tata badged cars in India have “huge negative baggage”.

In an attempt to resurrect the sagging fortunes of the car business and make the Tata brand more appealing Tata Motors launched the Zest sedan in September 2014 and Bolt hatchback in July this year.

While the company has succeeded in these efforts to some extent, the combined sales of both models are so far averaging only around 2,500 units a month.

To be sure, Tata Motors is yet to launch a model on a completely new platform. Its current line-up is based on its decade-old Indica platform. As part of the so-called Horizon next strategy, Tata Motors plans to launch a raft of new models in the passenger cars and utility vehicles till 2020.

Pareek concedes that a brand ambassador alone cannot transform the business and agrees that a 360-degree approach is needed which includes improving the product and service quality.

In November last year, Tata Motors appointed Pareek, who was spearheading the sales and marketing function at market leader Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, to turn around its passenger vehicles business. A year after taking charge, Pareek and his team have managed to reverse a consistent decline in sales. In the first half of the current fiscal, Tata Motors’ passenger vehicles unit sold 76,102 units against 73,206 in the same period a year ago.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time an Indian brand has been associated with a global sports star.

In December 2014, two-wheeler market leader, HeroMotoCorp Ltd, signed up American golf legend Tiger Woods as a brand ambassador in a four-year deal with the idea of capturing new markets in North America and Europe.