People aware of the matter said that the edtech startup has over the last few days pulled ads featuring the actor despite advance bookings, after facing backlash on social media platforms like Twitter. While SRK is the face of several leading brands like Hyundai, LG, Dubai Tourism, ICICI Bank and Reliance Jio, Byju’s was one of the largest sponsorship deals for the actor.
When contacted, a spokesperson for Byju’s declined to comment.
Aryan Khan was denied bail on Friday in relation to the ongoing drug-on-cruise probe.
Byju’s SRK deal is pegged at an annual fee of Rs 3-4 crore, two people aware of the matter said. SRK has been a brand ambassador for the company since 2017.
The Bengaluru-based startup, especially in the last two years, has been expanding at a fast pace in India as well as abroad besides making several big-ticket acquisitions
like that of Aakash Institute, the brick-and-mortar coaching network.
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“They (Byju’s) have paused all SRK-related promotions for now. It had to be pulled as the company which is in the area of education wouldn’t like to be seen in promotions with him given the controversy (over the drug case involving his son),” a person aware of the matter said. It is not clear if Byju’s has decided to drop SRK as a brand ambassador, this person said. “These ads were booked in advance—as is the process—so it took some time to stop all of them.”
Byju’s had launched a new ad campaign with SRK less than three weeks ago.
“For Byju’s, they had planned for IPL ads too and now there is a discomfort around that as the tournament moves to its next stage. It’s not clear if they will be able to pull out of all IPL promotions,” another person aware of the matter said.
Byju’s is currently the most valued startup with a valuation of around $18 billion. It
raised $300 million earlier this week as part of an ongoing funding round.
Shah Rukh Khan has also been associated with online grocer BigBasket, now owned by the Tata Group. A spokesperson of the company said, “BigBasket will not like to validate, deny or comment anything on this.” The company declined to make any additional comments on its association with the Bollywood actor.
“Byju’s has benefited immensely from its association with SRK,” Rohit Ohri, group chairman at creative ad agency FCB India, who has worked with various celebrities including SRK and Amitabh Bachchan, said. “Shah Rukh’s association with the edtech brand has been so intrinsic and so deep, that even if Byju’s is pausing the advertising for now, it will be very difficult for the brand to delink itself from SRK.”
According to him, Byju’s is trying to protect its brand amid the current controversy, but celebrity advertising has always come with risks. “In the age of social media, the risk is magnified so much more. Nike, for example, did not drop Tiger Woods, and in fact, did a comeback campaign after the huge controversy surrounding the golfer,” he said.
SRK was ranked fourth in Duff & Phelps’ celebrity brand valuation study with a brand value of $51.1 million. He has 42 million followers on Twitter and 26.5 million followers on Instagram.