Billion-dollar question: How Thums Up scored over the years

Billion-dollar question: How Thums Up scored over the years

Cola brand Thums Up recently roped in Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan as its latest endorser. The soft drink, which recently became a billion-dollar brand within The Coca-Cola Company stable, is the first within the company’s portfolio in India to achieve this milestone. Coca-Cola Company chairman and CEO James Quincey attributed the success of the brand to “focused marketing and execution plans”.

Thums Up was launched in 1978 within the Parle stable, soon after Emergency had been lifted and Coca-Cola had exited India due to equity stake dilution concerns with its Indian partners (a provision of the then Foreign Exchange Regulation Act). This was when Ramesh Chauhan entered the cola market with Thums Up.

MG Parameswaran, founder, Brand-Building.com, says, “The catchy campaign, ‘Happy days are here again, Thums Up, the refreshing cola’, captured the imagination of the public. Thums Up went on to fill the vacuum created by the exit of Coca-Cola, and more.”

The 43-year-old brand has been endorsed by multiple Bollywood celebrities over the years and has featured extreme adventure sports in its advertisements. By depicting bungee jumping and parkour to now a fight sequence on a train, Thums Up has been associated with attributes like strength, heroism, and masculinity.

“Drinking Thums Up was a way of declaring to the world that its consumer is an adult — a man, not a boy,” says KV Sridhar, global chief creative officer, Nihilent Hypercollective. Most notably, Salman Khan, Ranveer Singh and Akshay Kumar have been the prominent faces of this homegrown brand.

Ramesh Chauhan exited the cola business and sold Thums Up to The Coca-Cola Company in 1993, a few years after Pepsi started selling colas in India. Thums Up not only competed with Pepsi, but also The Coca-Cola Company’s own cola beverage. “On its part, Coke tried to switch consumers from Thums Up to Coke, but that did not happen — this speaks a lot about the strength of Thums Up,” says Parameswaran.

In 2021, the brand launched the ‘Palat De’ campaign for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games 2020. It featured Bajrang Punia (wrestler), Manu Bhaker (shooter), Vikas Krishna Yadav (boxer), Deepika Kumari (archery), Atanu Das (archery), and the Indian shooting team. The Paralympics version featured Paralympians Mariyappan Thangavelu (high jump), Sakina Khatun (powerlifting), Suyash Yadav (swimming), Navdeep (javelin throw), Sumit Antil (javelin throw), and Avani Lekhara (shooting). Sridhar says the brand may have pursued passive masochism when it told the story of these athletes, including cricketer Jaspreet Bumrah.

Thums Up seems to be dialling down its macho attributes with its latest brand ambassador, too. Known for his youthful, romantic roles in movies, Shah Rukh Khan previously endorsed rival beverage brand Pepsi. Interestingly, in what looks like a swap, Salman Khan, who previously endorsed Thums Up, is the current brand ambassador for Pepsi.

At 56, and with a string of movies that have not taken off at the box office, Shah Rukh Khan is an unlikely choice as a Thums Up brand endorser, say brand analysts. “Khan is a fading brand and does not embody any of the masculinity or thunder that Thums Up stands for,” says Sandeep Goyal, managing director, Rediffusion.

The brand may be hoping to leverage the actor’s upcoming movie ‘Pathan’, which is expected to hit theatres in August. Goyal believes given the recent track record of the star, it may be tricky to bet on a movie that is yet to be released.

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Check the source here –Source, Financial Express.