3 Bollywood stars rule in Forbes list of cell celebs

Washington, Aug 20 (IANS) With India emerging as what Forbes calls "the global capital of celebrity cell phone promotions", three Bollywood stars - Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan - figure in its list of "Ten Celebs and Their Cells".

"Though the practice permeates the US, Europe and East Asia, India is the global capital of celebrity cell phone promotions," said the US business magazine, with cell phones beginning to rival cosmetics and fashion in their pursuit of celebrity star power.

India is blessed with two unique characteristics: the world's fastest-growing cellphone market and a plethora of home grown superstars, said the publication, known for its list of world's wealthy on its Forbes.com. "That has phone makers competing to snap up the most bankable Bollywood stars, hoping their legions of fans will follow."

Motorola recently signed Abhishek Bachchan, whose celebrity stems from his own acting career - the legacy of his actor father Amitabh Bachchan and the fame of his actress wife, Aishwarya Rai. As recently as March, Bachchan had been the face of LG in India.

Samsung has actor/director Aamir Khan, whose work, the company says, mirrors its brand's "qualities of innovation, change, discovery, self-expression and excellence in performance." Samsung has said it is counting on Khan's popularity to help it double its market share in India this year.

Even the world's largest phone manufacturer Nokia, which abstains from celebrity marketing elsewhere in the world, has a partnership with Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan that includes TV commercials and sponsorship of Khan's cricket team.

Sony Ericsson has tennis star Maria Sharapova. Motorola has David Beckham, Danica Patrick, Wyclef Jean and Fergie. Samsung has soccer studs Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba.

And that's not counting the corps of Bollywood, Cantopop and K-pop stars the companies employ in Asia, Forbes said.

Motorola has used brand ambassadors for about two years. The celebrities "help elevate and build credibility for the Motorola brand and products," Forbes cited Jeremy Dale, vice president of marketing for Motorola Mobile Devices as saying. The trend is growing as more people around the world acquire cell phones - 3.5 billion and counting - and phone makers realise they need to work harder to sell their wares.

David Beckham frequently promotes Motorola's RAZR2 while competing abroad. In February, he made a pit stop in Seoul, where Motorola has struggled to unseat Korean rivals Samsung and LG. One local newspaper that covered the event noted, "Beckham Comes to Rescue Motorola."

Not every celebrity wants to be associated with a phone, even the latest, coolest models. Some endorse phones on the sly, limiting endorsements to companies based abroad. Actor Chris Noth - of "Sex and the City" and "Law & Order" fame - represents LG's Secret phone in Australia, halfway around the world from his New York home, the publication said.

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