Mixed reactions to Virat Kohli's controversial comments, Puma continues support

There has been a mixed response from the brands that cricketer and celebrity Virat Kohli endorses following his recent viral outburst but Puma is standing by him.

Virat Kohli's recent media scandal had divided opinions but Puma remains supportive - Virat Kohli- Facebook

Cricket star Virat Kohli has been in the spotlight recently, not for a match performance but for recent comments. Kohli, when responding in a video to a tweet that disparaged his batting in favour of foreign players, said: “I don’t think you should live in India then... you should go and live somewhere else. Why are you living in our country and loving other countries?”

Kohli later responded to the comment, which went viral and elicited many negative responses, and said that he was “trolling” but many fans and brands disagree. As Kohli has around 27 million followers on Twitter and over 37 million on Facebook, the outburst was seen by a huge audience, especially as it was first disseminated on his new mobile app, launched on November 5.

Kohli is one of India’s highest-paid brand ambassadors and endorses around 18 brands including Colgate, Tissot watches, Manyavar ethnic wear, Philips India, and Wrogn, which he founded with Universal Sportsbiz (USPL) in 2014.

Some brands that have partnerships with Kohli hope to distance themselves from his comments. ET Bureau reported two anonymous sources from partnership brands that he endorses, calling the scandal unexpected and disappointing. However, no brand has officially come out against the statements or dropped Kohli as a brand ambassador.

Puma India has shown its support for Kohli and Abhishek Ganguly, the managing director of Puma in India, told ET Bureau: “The issue is being blown out of proportion… Anyone who has seen the entire video on Virat’s fan app will know that he was speaking in jest in a section called ‘Virat responds to mean tweets.’” Kohli works with Puma on his own sneaker brand, One8, which they launched together last year.

Smaaash Entertainment’s promoter, Shripal Morakhia, also showed support for Kohli and said, “He should not be judged like the way he is being.” Smaaash Entertainment’s investor is fellow cricketer and celebrity, Sachin Tendulkar.

As celebrity brand sponsorships is becoming more and more important and lucrative in the Indian fashion and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries, future such incidents are bound to follow where a brand sponsor does or says something deemed to be controversial. How Kohli’s partner-brands respond to this scandal will surely set the tone for future incidences.

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