Promotions with cricketer on hold as Chinese mobile phone maker investigated by ED, Telecom News, ET Telecom

New Delhi: Vivo Mobiles has temporarily stopped running ads featuring brand ambassador Virat Kohli on TV and social media platforms until the Chinese mobile phone maker comes under fire scrutiny by investigative agencies over money laundering charges, executives familiar with the development said.

“Planned publicity and promotional activities involving Kohli are on hold until it is clear where the investigation is headed,” one of the executives said. Another executive said Kohli’s team were also uncomfortable with the former India cricket captain being shown in Vivo adverts at the moment. “It’s also to protect Virat from criticism,” he said. The leaders did not wish to be named.

An email query to Vivo India went unanswered until press time. Queries sent to Cornerstone Sport, the talent management company that manages Kohli’s portfolio, also did not elicit a response.

Industry watchers said pausing was “the logical option” at this time.

ED Glare on Vivo

Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and former head of marketing at PepsiCo and Hewlett Packard, said, “The decision to suspend commercial activity associating a national icon with a brand under intense government scrutiny is still appropriate. Kohli, with its massive consumer reach and influence, should not be considered branded under such serious allegations as Vivo is currently facing.

The Enforcement Department has conducted searches at 48 premises belonging to Vivo and 23 associated companies in connection with money laundering over the past few days.

The Chinese manufacturer appealed to the Delhi High Court on Friday against ED’s freezing of its bank accounts. In its petition, Vivo said the central agency continues to make “various attempts to disrupt” its activities.

Vivo signed Kohli as its brand ambassador in April 2021. At the time of signing, Vivo said the partnership would include cross-platform advertising, promotions, events and social media campaigns .

Kohli is India’s highest paid celebrity, giving her name to around 30 brands across all industries including Vivo, Audi luxury cars, American Tourister luggage, Puma sportswear, Tissot watches, Myntra fashion, l Go Digit General Insurance and Hyperice Wellness.

Vivo is the second largest smartphone brand in India. It seeks to target a wide range of customers with an appeal to lifestyle products. Xiaomi leads the market with 22% market share, while Vivo held 18% of the market by shipments in May, a 3% growth month-over-month, according to Counterpoint Research.

Last month, Kohli became the first Indian to cross 200 million followers on social media platform Instagram, a key matrix for brands to choose individuals for endorsements. The former India captain, known for his aggressiveness on and off the pitch, is also the third most followed sportsman on Instagram.

Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo is the most followed sportsman, with 464 million followers, followed by Argentine football star Lionel Messi, with 346 million followers.

Kohli, 33, tops the list of India’s most valuable celebrities, with a brand value of $185.7 million in 2021, data and insights firm Duff & Phelps said in its report. valuation of celebrity brands released in March this year. The report says that although Kohli topped the list for the fifth time in a row, its brand value has dropped significantly from the previous year.

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