If your Uber driver starts swearing at traffic a little more than normal, you’ll know whom to blame.
India cricket captain Virat Kohli has said that he’s become Uber’s brand ambassador in India. “I’m super pumped to be a part of team Uber India,” said Kohli in a video on Twitter. “I still remember my first Uber ride, looking at those tiny cars move on a map, and wondering if this would work. But it did, and like magic,” he gushed. Kohli already has Uber’s lingo down pat — he added that he was “looking forward to creating economic opportunities for (Uber’s) driver partners.”
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) March 9, 2018
Kohli is no stranger to brand endorsements — he is the face of as many as 17 brands, including Audi, MRF, Tissot, Gionee, Puma, Boost, Colgate, Too Yumm and Vicks. He also promotes brands he’s invested in, including the Chisel chain of gyms, tech startup Sports Convo and the apparel-line Wrogn. Kohli’s endorsement doesn’t come cheap — he now charges Rs. 5 crore per day for endorsement activities.
But Kohli’s endorsement might’ve come at just the right time for Uber. Uber had been widely seen to cede ground to Ola over the last year — Uber had a quiet 2017, ending the year with operations in 31 cities, while Ola had launched its in-car entertainment platform Ola Play, announced a ferry service, and taken its business to over a 100 cities in 2017. Uber also had to battle several controversies last year, which included allegations of systemic gender bias at the firm, and they culminated in the resignation of founder Travis Kalanick as CEO.
Kohli’s signing will undoubtedly help prop up Uber’s brand image among its core audience — Kohli, at 29, is arguably the most bankable star in India at the moment, and has an appeal that spans the entire country. His signing will also dull the occasional attacks that Ola makes against it of being a foreign firm — nothing says Indian more than having the Indian cricket captain on board as your brand ambassador. And Kohli’s signing could end up revitalizing the Uber brand — since Travis Kalanick’s ouster last year, Uber has lost some of its original zing, but Kohli, with his in-your-face aggression and competitiveness, could give it the fillip it needs to get back to winning ways.