Rise of Nuisance PR with Salt Bae’s kissing the World Cup

Imagine the moment that defined Lionel Messi as the greatest football player of all times…the win of Argentina in the FIFA World Cup.

Also imagine that inspite of clearly laid out rules by FIFA on who can even touch the coveted world cup trophy, which includes winner, select FIFA officials and heads of state…a PR hungry chef even kisses the cup snatching it from the player, does his signature salt sprinkling on the trophy, and forcing the world champion to take picture with him, interrupting his moment of glory.

And finally imagine that the same PR hungry chef ends up getting the same air time for the nuisance that he created …along with the world champion?

Yes, who would have imagined that Salt Bae will end up trending in the same breath as Lionel Messi? So what if he is banned from the upcoming big events? He didn’t have to even play football, let alone win the World Cup to get the maximum mileage out of it.

I define Nuisance PR as the publicity that is generated by sheer nuisance and not by merit…where creating nuisance is the dominant strategy…by doing something that will get you on the nerve of the audience, albeit, with a caveat that the audience needs to keep talking about you, hating you!

The sponsors of FIFA World Cup invested almost USD 2 billion for visibility…but the brand that had the maximum recall, almost giving Messi a competition, was Salt Bae or Nusret Gokce and his Nusr-Et Steakhouse. All at zero cost…pure PR.

The chef, who rose to fame with a number of viral videos in 2017, also posed for photos with a number of Argentina players and was seen kissing the trophy as well as doing his signature style salt sprinkling on the coveted trophy. Salt Bae was seen repeatedly grabbing Messi and pestering the Argentinian ace for attention. Viewers labelled these acts of nuisance as ‘shameless’ and ‘pathetic’. Messi turned to look at him briefly at one point, before turning away in a brutal snub for the celebrity chef.

One social media user wrote: “The man’s just won the World Cup literally minutes prior and this ‘celebrity’ is feeling he’s entitled to get his attention.” Others pointed out Salt Bae’s insistence on getting selfies with players and described the scenes as “cringeworthy”…the operative word.

But why was Nuisance PR of Salt Bae a success? First, he was able to sprinkle his magic salt that gave viewers a change of taste…entertainment. The event was unexpected so everyone paid attention…willingly. Also as a bonus they had a celebrity to blame!

Second is the most important key for the success of any PR. Timing! The timing of the nuisance was impeccable. Salt Bae knew any nuisance during the match would be a “no show” but post-match will be the best time when all the cameras were in a celebratory mode capturing the “mood shots and bytes”.

No wonder, Nuisance PR has generated millions and millions of organic views of the “cringeworthy” activities of Salt Bae and the repeat viewership is much higher than the goals scored by Messi and Mbappe in the historic World Cup Finale!

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Mahul Brahma
Prof (Dr.) Mahul Brahma, FCES is Dean and Professor of NSHM Media School. He is a Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Business School, Bath Spa University, UK. He is a Fellow of The Commercial Education Society of Australia. He is former Professor, Dean of School of Media and Communications and Director of Communications at an Indian university.

He was honoured with a DBA by American Council on Management and IT (ACMIT) and is a member of its Academic Council. He is a D.Litt (hon) in luxury and communications, and a PhD in Economics. Prof Brahma was Chief Editor and Head of CSR, Corporate Communications and Branding, Publishing and Conferences for a Tata Steel and SAIL JV, mjunction. He is a TEDx speaker on the mythic value of luxury.

He won Sahityakosh Samman in 2022 and 2023, Crisis Communications Leader of the Year Award in 2021 and several other national-level awards in communications and CSR. He is a luxury commentator and award-winning author of 10 books – 'Bharat, A Luxe Story', The Quiet Luxe, Aesthetic Leadership in Luxury, Mostly Missing: Be Silly Be Slow, The Mythic Value of Luxury, How to Communicate Strategically in Corporate World, the Luxe Trilogy (Decoding Luxe, Dark Luxe and Luxe Inferno) and Quarantined: Love in the time of Corona.

He is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management - Calcutta, St Xavier’s College, MICA, Sri Satya Sai University, and University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He is a golfer with a 7 handicap.

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