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The Economic Times (March 16, 2014)

Sunny Leone's ex-porn star status opens up edgy brand endorsement chances for the Bollywood actress

 

Sunny Leone, to her throng of fans, conjures up images that are mostly too vicarious to describe in these pages of resonant family reading. But once you hear her out, you would wonder whether it's a former porn star — adult entertainer if you will — or a marketing guru doing the talking.

"I think I offer a unique brand of worldwide traffic and fans that is different from what is offered by other celebrities in India," says the Indo-Canadian actress who was born Karenjit Kaur Vohra to Sikh parents in Ontario, Canada. There's more: she also lets on that she's "specialized in social media marketing" and companies that tie up with the Sunny Leone brand "see the potential and value" in it.

Meet Sunny Leone, porn star turned digital entrepreneur cum brand endorser. And if you aren't still convinced here's some more: "This year we launched our own Sunny Leone app and platform that integrates all social networks with our own marketing team [her business interests are run under her banner company Leone LLC]. We now reach the end consumer in a way that companies hope to in an everchanging world market," she told ET Magazine in an email interview.

Perhaps it's time to take the Bollywood actor who was most searched online in 2013, the Penthouse Pet of the year a decade before that, and one of Maxim's 12 top porn stars of 2010 a bit more seriously, and with more respect. A clutch of marketers is doing exactly that by signing her up to endorse their brands. Those labels of course are not of soaps, detergents or toothpaste but tend to be on the edgier side — think energy drinks, liquor, and inevitably condoms and adult entertainment websites.

"Products such as energy drinks, alcohol and — more obviously — adult entertainment websites have sexual attraction built in either as subtext or as an overt promise. In that context, Sunny Leone becomes the perfect choice as brand ambassador. She's a porn actress who has now become a Bollywood star — hence known and fantasized about by millions. Who better to be the face of an A-rated brand," explains Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Mumbai.

A True Entrepreneur

Raw sexuality, however, may not be the only reason marketers are making a beeline for Leone. Consider, for instance, why Mydala, an online discount coupon platform, signed her recently for a promotional contest partnering with Balaji Motion Pictures for the release of Ragini MMS-2, a 'horror-thriller' film in 3D.

"That she's the most searched Indian celebrity on Google, with 80% of the traffic coming from India, is obviously proof of her popularity. However, I personally connected with her as a woman entrepreneur who is practical, down-to-earth and unapologetic about providing a service, for which there's obviously a big market in India," says Anisha Singh, CEO and founder of Mydala, which is targeting 200 million consumers across 152 cities in India.

Singh points out that the contest, which offers an opportunity to the winner to "meet and greet" Leone, has registered over 7,000 participants so far. "The promo has also created a big buzz in the mobile space, from where a large number of our users are coming," says Singh, who founded Mydala in 2009.

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