Lionel Messi is the new global ambassador of TATA India’s largest automaker

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India’s largest automaker, Tata Motors, has roped in Argentine soccer icon Lionel Messi as its global brand ambassador for the passenger vehicles category—where the company has been struggling.

This is the first time that Messi will endorse an Indian brand.

“The idea is to engage with young people, and we found that football and Messi had a lot of connect with the youth,” Mayank Pareek, Tata Motors’ president for the passenger vehicle business unit, told the Press Trust of India. The company’s contract with Messi is for two years, which can be extended.

Tata Motors holds just a 5.72% market share in India’s passenger vehicle market. The company has seen tepid growth in the segment during the current fiscal year, with sales even falling month-on-month sometimes:

But, the company says it is on the verge of turning its fortunes.

“Tata Motors is at a defining juncture in its evolution as it gears up to disrupt the passenger vehicles industry,” the company said in a statement. “Taking these offerings to consumers with aggressive and innovative marketing is an equally important area of focus for the company.”

The new brand ambassador will also help the Indian auto major “connect with its global audience effectively,” it said.

The advertising campaign—the first part of it is ready to be rolled out—has been over five months in the making. Ads for the campaign have been directed by Spanish producer and director Daniel Ben Mayor, and shot in Barcelona. There are also plans to launch merchandise range for the campaign with Messi.

Will it work? In cricket-mad India, football’s following, though growing, is relatively small. But an endorsement from the world’s best footballer is bound to get attention.

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