Nationwide Targets South Asians With 'Idol' Contestant Sanjaya

Sanjaya Malakar former AIdol contestantFollowing in the footsteps of Fabio, MC Hammer and Kevin Federline, former "American Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malakar has joined the growing list of B- (or lower)-list celebrities to appear in advertising for Nationwide insurance.


Malakar's presence is intended to help the Columbus, Ohio-based company target Americans of South Asian descent, according to a company representative. The television commercial is one of six aimed at the South Asian-American market, specifically people who come from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

"He's a tremendously popular figure in those communities," company representative Mike Switzer tells Marketing Daily. "It's not just young teenage girls. Folks of South Asian descent like him a lot."

In the television commercial, Malakar, known for an electrifying smile and flowing locks (though not so much for his voice), visits a monastery in India to seek advice about his future. Once there, he is told that he needs a retirement plan, and some work on his hair.



"I'm thrilled to star in one of Nationwide's 'Life Comes at You Fast' ads because I really love the campaign," said Malakar in a statement. "My experience on 'American Idol' is a great example of how life really does come at you fast. The ad is a funny take on the serious subject of planning for retirement."

Malakar is the first celebrity to be used in the company's South Asian-targeted advertising, although Nationwide has created advertising specifically targeting the South Asian community for the past three years. Previous spots have featured Bollywood-style dance efforts and a woman teaching her son Hindi.

"South Asian Americans have among the highest annual incomes in the country," Switzer says. "They're also among the highest-educated in the U.S., which makes them valuable customers for us."

Nationwide's "Life Comes at You Fast" campaign has run for four years. Other iterations of the spots have depicted Fabio rapidly aging and Federline fantasizing about a glamour-filled Hollywood life while in reality flipping burgers at a fast-food chain.

Despite Malakar's popularity outside of the South Asian community, there are no plans to run the commercial featuring him in the general market, Switzer says.

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