What should be Brand Fortune’s stance after Sourav Ganguly’s cardiac arrest?

Sourav Ganguly’s cardiac arrest has sent fans of the former India cricket captain into a tizzy. Ganguly has undergone an angioplasty procedure and is said to be stable now.

Caught inadvertently in the health scare was Fortune brand from Adani Wilmar Ltd (AWL). As is known, Ganguly is the brand ambassador for Fortune oils and soya chunks. Ganguly has been appearing in Fortune’s ads promoting the health benefits and taste of the oils and soya chunks. He has a strong connect with the consumers in the East markets. The brand has been aggressively advertising across channels and he also appears on the packaging of their products.

Not surprisingly, Twitterattis had a field day at Fortune’s expense since the brand has been strongly promoting the health benefits offered by its Rice Bran Oil, Mustard Oil and soya chunks. “Adani’s misfortune” is what the trolls joked.

One of the fastest-growing food FMCG companies in India, Adani Wilmar Ltd has extended its basket of offerings with the introduction of soap – Alife. Besides oil, Adani has also forayed into packaged Basmati Rice, Pulses, Soya Chunks, Besan, Wheat Flour and recently launched superfood Khichdi. Recently they launched a special campaign for the Eastern markets as well as the national markets.

This is a typical crisis for brands, when something sudden and unexpected happens with their brand ambassador – in this case an otherwise fitness conscious personality, who has been actively involved in promoting the game of cricket even after retiring from the field, has been struck down by a heart ailment. So, in such a situation the brand has to carefully think and take a call on its strategy, after all it involves brand credibility and trust. Firstly, they should give the brand ambassador the moral support to wish him a speedy recovery and communicate the same through some of the social channels. The next step would be possibly to look at a new communication plank and look at the option of replacing with new brand ambassador in a phased manner. All this will take time. Meanwhile, the brand’s visibility should not be disturbed.

To understand what kind of stance Fortune brand should take in such a situation, Adgully spoke to a few experts from the industry.

According to Kartik Srinivasan, Communications Strategy Consultant and Social Media Expert, the conventional and old-world PR advice would be to “lie low” and “ride this crisis out”. “But this outdated wisdom does not take into account the fact that whether the brand withdraws their Ganguly-featuring ads from active circulation or not, people are circulating it far and wide and calling it ‘ironic’,” he remarked.

The first thing Fortune needs to do is listen as closely as they can since people are talking about their brand. That chatter could turn into negative perception for no fault of the brand. The choice of cooking oil does not directly amount of the incidence of heart attack – that’s too reductive a logic, but one that most oil brands labour extensively on, in their advertising, showcasing intricate graphics of blood flowing smoothly in veins because of the choice of some cooking oil.

“Fortune needs to handle this proactively, and not be reactive,” is Srinivasan’s advice, as he added, “This is an opportunity for them to build a larger narrative around the causes of a heart attack in the 40s that do not directly correlate it to oil consumption alone, including stress (BCCI!), lifestyle, etc. They could rope in other 40-50 age-group celebrities to endorse the same oil (as a showcase of ‘others’ beyond Ganguly) and get them to wish Ganguly a speedy recovery (so that it doesn’t seem like Fortune is shirking off Ganguly completely).”

Poulomi Roy, Chief Marketing Officer, RSH Global, felt that it was a rare circumstance and added, “Firstly, I would stand by my endorser and wish for his/her speedy recovery. Secondly, I would focus on generating content of lifestyle health hazards, all the other elements than food that needs to be on check as well in order to maintain good health. Use social media, twitter and use specific opinion leaders to create these contents. I would own up this space #morethanhealthyeating.”

Apart from healthy eating, there are other aspects that are critical for good health, such as stress. “So, if the dialogue is being held to equate oil and other food items with health hazards. I would balance it by other relevant reasons in order to give my consumer a holistic view.I would do this not with the intent of safeguarding my brand image but in reality, I do believe that food grains and oil cannot be the only reason for health hazards. Because, technically person with busy schedule would hardly get to eat home cooked meal every day. Also, we do know that there are several other factors that can create heart disease,” Roy added.

Her approach would take a knowledge sharing route with opinion leaders to start a dialogue around #foodonlyreason #healthyheart. Social and digital media would be an ideal platform to do so. She, however, would not take a mass media approach and substantiate the product benefits further to the consumers.


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