29 June 2016 13:40:25 IST

Fantastico! Tata not to say bye-bye to Lionel Messi

FILE PHOTO - Football Soccer - Barcelona v Deportivo Coruna - Spanish Liga BBVA - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - 12/12/15 Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his first goal. REUTERS/Juan Medina/File Photo

Argentine superstar quits international football but stays brand icon

Football superstar Lionel Messi was the striker for Tata Motors’ newest kid on the block — the Tiago — and will remain so, never mind the Argentine’s decision to quit the international circuit.

After Chile trumped Argentina in Sunday’s Copa America final, in which Messi missed scoring in the penalty shootout, the 29-year-old declared he would never again don the country’s white-and-blue jersey. He will, however, continue to play for Spanish club FC Barcelona.

“Our association with Messi will continue; there is no change,” a Tata Motors spokesperson told BusinessLine .

It was in November 2015 that the auto major signed on Messi, arguably the world’s best footballer, as the face of its ad campaigns for a two-year period.

With Messi, Tata Motors sought to connect with the youth — with its ‘#madeofgreat’ campaign — as he was seen to be ‘cool’, inspiring and confident, apart from being hugely self-driven.

A survey by the company also revealed that football was the new cool among the youth in India, while cricket was seen as a desi sport.

In April, the Tiago commercial debuted with Messi, and the ‘fantastico’ theme quickly struck a chord with viewers.

The new hatchback was also reasonably well received in the market; it is a critical takeoff point for the company to revive its car business.

Other launches will follow in the coming months, and this is where the Messi connection could become very relevant if, that is, the superstar has not lost a bit of the halo following the decision to quit.

Beyond the brand icon While these are still early days on the Tata script with Messi, it is the product that needs to deliver. There is only so much a brand ambassador can do. A well-known face can, no doubt, interest a customer in a product, but only its performance can convince him of the value-for-money proposition.

For instance, Shah Rukh Khan has been the face of Hyundai for two decades, but it is the performance of its vehicles — i10, i20, Xcent, Verna and Creta — that has kept the Korean automaker running steadily on Indian roads. Renault, likewise, did its homework well on the entry-level Kwid, while Ranbir Kapoor did his bit as the brand ambassador.

Tata Motors, similarly, will only be too aware that the Tiago can drive ahead only if it performs, however ‘fantastico’ the Messi association.