In a statement, Coca-Cola India and Salman said, “Salman Khan was committed to an existing relationship with a daily TV show, which this year happens to be sponsored by a brand that competes with the Coca-Cola India product portfolio. In light of this, both parties have mutually decided not to renew the current contract.”
The show concerned is Big Boss 10, whose main sponsor is Parle Agro's Appy Fizz, which replaced Snapdeal as the main sponsor of the Colors-aired TV show this year.
The beverage maker is reportedly in talks with actor Ranveer Singh, considered a younger and safer bet than Salman, multiple sources have told Business Standard. Coca-Cola India did not indicate anything about future endorsement plans of Thums Up.
Salman, who was earlier brand ambassador of Thums Up between 2001 and 2003, was subsequently dropped following his involvement in a hit-and-run case in Mumbai and the blackbuck shooting issue. He returned as Thums Up brand ambassador in 2012, following a string of successes at the box office.
Coca-Cola India had also during Salman’s second stint as brand ambassador signed an agreement with Being Human—The Salman Khan Foundation to jointly promote and execute charitable and social activities. All of this will cease to exist now.
It is not uncommon for beverage companies to drop aging or controversial personalities. PepsiCo India, for instance, had dropped cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in 2009 as part of its move to phase out aging brand ambassadors. Similarly, Coca-Cola India had brought Tendulkar on board in 2011 only as a social ambassador for three years. He was replaced by Sourav Ganguly last year.
Brand experts said a category like colas typically demands the use of younger stars, though Salman was an exception to the rule. “Thums Up has a macho appeal, which Salman could carry well,” said K V Sridhar, chief creative officer of SapientNitro, who had worked on the Thums Up brand.
Ranked the number one cola in India, ahead of Pepsi and Coke, Thums Up has a unique flavour, said Sridhar, which has continued to have an appeal despite stiff competition in the category. India, incidentally, is the only market where Coca-Cola has two cola brands and where the leader is not Coke.
Ranveer is expected to bring his own brand of machismo once he comes on board as Thums Up brand ambassador, experts said.