Cola brands up the action ante – Pathaan Vs Dabangg Vs Khiladi!

Coca-Cola re-entered the market in 1993, and opted to adopt Thums Up as a competitor to Pepsi. The brand was rebranded as a “macho” beverage, based on its powerful flavour attributes. Thums Up launched an advertising campaign that concentrated on the drink’s strength in the hopes of appealing to youthful customers. The campaign, ‘Grow Up to Thums Up’, was quite a success.

In October 2012, actor Salman Khan agreed to promote the Thums Up brand. After four years of working together, both sides agreed not to renew the contract. In 2020, rival brand Pepsi enlisted Salman Khan as a brand ambassador, putting Thums Up, which was promoting itself with youthful faces like Ranveer Singh and Mahesh Babu, in direct competition.

But, soon after, Thums Up realised that it needed to rebrand itself with a more powerful face, and a Khan face against a Khan was born, with Coca-Cola roping in Shah Rukh Khan as the brand ambassador for Thums Up. The new SRK ad rides on the buzz for Shah Rukh’s upcoming action movie, ‘Pathaan. This is Shah Rukh’s first film after his last movie ‘Zero’ tanked at the box office. The actor also went through some tough times last year when his son Aryan Khan was arrested in a drugs related case.

Putting all that behind him Shah Rukh is busy with the shooting of ‘Pathaan’ and if the social buzz is anything to go by, then a flop and a scandal has failed to make a dent in fans’ love for the actor.

While announcing Shah Rukh as the brand endorser for Thums Up, Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer, Ogilvy India, had said, “A toofaan is stirred when the King of Bollywood joins hands with the ‘Soft drink nahi, toofaan’ called Thums Up. We are very thrilled to have SRK as our partner, on this exciting journey of reinventing this iconic brand.”

After having Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar, both known for their macho image, as the brand ambassadors, Shah Rukh, who is mostly loved for his lover boy image, also dons an action star avatar in the ad

As Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, remarked, “SRK is the original zing! By bringing SRK back, Thums Up is getting the original, and possibly even retro, zing back. SRK lends a retro-fizz to the brand for sure. SRK is not done as yet, just as Thums Up is not! Thums Up has been about ‘Taste the Thunder’ for a long time. Maybe it’s time to tweak it to ‘Taste the original thunder’ now! To me, Thums Up and SRK are both parts of the OG Thunder!”

Manesh Swamy, Senior Vice President-Creative and Social, Logicserve Digital, added here, “Thums Up has always been in the macho-adventure zone, and with their new Toofan positioning they are still echoing the Thunder in the communication. SRK is not seen as the romantic hero here, but as an action hero, the way we have seen him in multiple hits. The fans and consumers can still relate to it.”

“SRK has a few action films up his sleeve, ‘Pathaan’ is being most talked about. So, it looks like an extension of it and, fans are getting stoked about the look. Also, the TG of the “not so soft drink”, I feel, is 40-45 plus as well, and SRK has a strong base there too. Additionally, the competition still has Dabangg Khan, so it’s good to see the cola-wars back in action. I just feel Thums Up should have launched the Toofan campaign with SRK first and the others like Bumrah, Vijay (Arjun Reddy -fame) should have followed because King Khan should have led for maximum impact,” he added.

Brand Guru Jagdeep Kapoor Founder Chairman And Managing Director Of Samsika Marketing Consultants, noted,Thums Up is now a billion-dollar brand. It has now chosen a brand ambassador who is lives in and is loved by, a billion hearts and minds. The sheer colossal magnitude of the brand requires a personality of the same magnitude to enhance the brand personality. The brand ambassador sends a message of style, lends an image of tough appeal, tends towards reinforcing the taste the thunder positioning.”

Meanwhile, on a different note, KV Sridhar, Global Chief Creative Officer, Nihilent Hypercollective at Nihilent Ltd, pointed out, “As far as Shah Rukh Khan as brand ambassador is concerned, Thums Up is an action-oriented brand and SRK is not basically an action hero. Whereas Akshay, Salman and all the heroes connected with Thums Up always have been from action hero backgrounds. The personality of Thums Up is of action and macho, but replacing runways with SRK is surprising. SRK is a timeless superstar, everybody agrees and he's a fantastic actor, but he is not an action hero. Therefore, it is a mismatch.”


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