The 30-year-old cricketer stirred up a storm recently when he said people who like other countries’ players, should leave India and settle in those countries. Social media, of course, went into a tizzy, resulting in a severe backlash on the cricketer.
Kohli has since then clarified his stance on the matter, saying he was reacting to a particular comment on Instagram which read, “Over-rated batsman. Personally, I see nothing special in his batting. I enjoy watching English and Australian batsmen more than these Indians,” and that his reaction was targeted towards to phrase ‘these Indians’.
Clarification or not, the incident begs to ask the question whether the many brands that Kohli endorses will take note, and consequently action.
Khan was the endorser for e-commerce company Snapdeal back then. The company severed ties with the 'Dangal' actor within days of the incident. Does Kohli face a similar threat when it comes to endorsements?
Experts believe that brands will not cut ties with the cricketer straight away, but will keep a keen eye on his social media conduct.
“Brands today are made on social media. So an endorser’s conduct on social media is important for them. So yes, they would have taken notice of the controversy and will keep tabs on his conduct going forward, but as of now, I don’t see any adverse consequence to the incident. The fact that Kohli was prompt in issuing a clarification has also helped his case,” says Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consultants, a brand marketing firm.
However, if the brash social media behaviour continues, the cricketer may find himself losing endorsement deals.
So what makes his case different than Khan’s? Brand pundits believe that the fundamental difference between the two cases is the forum that the statements were made on.
In Kohli's case, it was a part of a scripted video on his new app while Khan and Rao made the statement at a public function.
“Aamir’s case was also different because the social and political environment at the time was more sensitive towards the issue. In Virat’s case, it is contained to cricket, so the backlash is limited to that,” says another expert.
While he may not lose any endorsements as a result of this incident, experts believe that he will have to watch his conduct on and off social media going forward, and remember that he dons two hats – India cricket team captain, and an endorser to almost 22 brands.