The Oxford English Dictionary actually does not recognise the word undorser. At least not so far. Because it is a word coined by me. As a word that is the opposite, the antonym, of the word endorser. According to the dictionary, an endorser is “someone, especially a well-known person, who appears in an advertisement saying that they use and like a particular product” or “someone who makes a public statement saying that they support someone or something”. After Cristiano Ronaldo’s very public snub of Coke, the undorser will soon come to be defined as “someone, especially a well-known person, who publicly denounces the use of a product or brand, due to personal convictions or reasons of health, religion or life values”. The Ronaldo episode may have been the first of its kind, but his undorsement emboldened Paul Pogba
and Manuel Locatelli to emulate his actions — Pogba removed a Heineken
bottle while Locatelli also put aside the Coke bottles in front of him at the after-match press conference. The Ronaldo episode is also not likely to be the last, as many more celebrities may now want to make visible statements in support of causes close to their hearts. More so, after the huge amount of global publicity garnered by L’Affaire Coke.
Ronaldo wasn’t pleased seeing Coca-Cola
bottles placed on the table as he arrived to attend the press conference with Portugal
manager Fernando Santos on the eve of the Hungary match at Euro 2020. He put the Coke bottles aside and picked up a water bottle saying “Agua”, asking people to drink water over soft drinks. An impulsive five-second gesture from one of the world’s fittest athletes cost soft drink giant Coca Cola an unimaginable $4 billion in dropped market capitalisation.
So what exactly was going on in Ronaldo’s mind when he dismissed the Coke bottles and replaced them with water (also coincidentally from the Coca Cola stable)? One thing is for sure, whatever Ronaldo did was not pre-mediated. He saw the Coke bottles and since he is such a health fanatic, he just decided in that moment of time, that split second, to banish the offending fizz from his eye-view. Ronaldo perhaps never even thought what a body blow he had dealt to the brand that he himself once endorsed. It is a moot question if he would have actually removed the Coke bottles from sight if he had anticipated the colossal impact of what he was actually doing.
Now to Pogba. His removal of the Heineken
bottle (coincidentally non-alcoholic) actually had the reverse effect on the fortunes of the beer brand! Heineken
shares surged 1.65 per cent, adding $1.1 billion to the company’s market cap. The global publicity that Pogba gave Heineken, incredibly enough, worked to its advantage. So while Pogba may have silently made the point about him being a Muslim and a teetotaller, he wasn’t a heavyweight enough, unlike Ronaldo to damage Brand Heineken. Also, motives were different: Ronaldo’s concerns were health and nutrition; Pogba’s were religious.
In the case of Locatelli, despite the fact that he is a young Italian sensation, his act of emulating Ronaldo perhaps got him a few laughs and memes, but precious little beyond that. Coke shares did not budge, let alone plummet.
So how come Ronaldo succeeded, and the other two failed? Apart from the fact that Ronaldo (famous worldwide as CR 7) is the most followed human on Instagram, and hence is a celebrity super-heavyweight, it is the spontaneity and the element of surprise that created the ripples that led to the $4-billion stock erosion. Plus, as said before, it was about healthy choices that today resonate with large audiences worldwide.
Will someone soon again try to be an undorser? One can be mighty sure that there are going to be many more celebrities who will try to steal the limelight with some visible rejections. Of products. Of brands. Of issues. The undorser is now a breed that is going to grow. However, the marginal impact, and success, of future undorsements is likely to diminish with each repetition or replication. First, because the novelty is already beginning to wear off. Second, because the spontaneity would be missing. Anything and everything would look like a Ronaldo copy. The authenticity would be lacking.
Will that therefore deter future celebrity undorsers? The undorsements would, going forward, be pre-mediated and planned. And executed with finesse so that they are made to look as natural and as spur-of-the-moment acts as possible. The causes, or subjects of rejections, too would come with fair amount of research, and motives. And at some point, some brands would surely retaliate claiming mala fide intentions and perhaps resort to legal actions.
Nevertheless, given the lure of instant publicity, self portrayal as a messiah, the opportunity to exhibit self-righteousness, every celebrity today would love to be an undorser.
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