It’s not only India’s cricket authorities who want to link payment to players’ on-field performance. A top celebrity management company says corporate sponsors, too, could begin insisting on the same.
Percept D’Mark chief executive officer Preeta Singh, whose company manages former skipper Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh and bowler S. Sreesanth, said every brand- endorsement contract signed in future is likely to contain performance-linked clauses. She also feared that some companies would distance themselves from cricket entirely.
The commercial value of every cricketer was “readjusted” after India was knocked out of the first round of the World Cup last month, Singh. “At the core is the issue of the performance of the player. This is the biggest change that we will see in the future,” she added.
Indian cricket is embarking on self-examination and reforms not seen since the match-fixing controversy of 2000, amid fans’ complaints that cricketers are driven more by money than the game. In the aftermath of the stinging losses in the West Indies, players were criticized for being more concerned about how they looked for commercial shoots than their game.
The game’s governing body, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), announced that no player would be allowed to sign more than three contracts at a time in future. It allowed for existing contracts to be honoured, but the decision has drawn strong reactions from various stakeholders.
Former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram, currently an analyst with sports broadcaster ESPN, described BCCI’s action as a “joke” in an interview to the channel on Sunday. “Can you tell David Beckham that all your endorsements are being withdrawn because you haven’t scored a goal in two years?” he asked.
Long-time backers of the game have begun distancing themselves from the heated debate over cricket advertising, a scenario Percept’s Singh feared would be the result of BCCI’s action.
LG India vice-president (sales and marketing) Girish V. Rao said his company’s seven-year association with the International Cricket Council, the sport’s global governing body, had brought it the results it desired, and it would now look at other sports and entertainment such as cinema. Though LG would not sever its association with cricket, it was not interested in signing on any player as brand ambassador, he said. “We are more committed to the game than to players,” Rao added.
Sports economist Robert Simmons of the University of Lancashire in UK said there was no precedent in Europe or US on putting a cap on the number of endorsements an athlete could sign. He said such restrictions were unjustified. Simmons said a player’s receipt of multiple endorsement offers usually reflects a strong performance on the field. “There is no proof that endorsements have a negative effect on performance,” he wrote in an email interview.
Media buyer Group M, which handles Pepsico India’s account, said a proposed campaign for Gatorade, a sports drink, would be shown on news and other high-viewership channels. Earlier, it had planned to run it on the Sony Entertainment Television channels during the World Cup matches, said Group M’s Pepsi account executive M.K. Machaiah. Pepsi did not respond to specific questions on its plans for cricket, with executive director Abhiram Seth saying his company would abide by whatever was decided between BCCI and the players.
ESPN sees a silver lining in the controversy. On Monday, it launched Akram’s interview on its voice portal ESPN Mobile; people can listen to the full three-minute interview for Rs18. They are lured with a text message, “BCCI is treating senior players like kids, says Akram.” The company initially launched the voice portal service when the World Cup started last month; it has only now begun marketing it. “The current controversy gave us the perfect platform,” said ESPN’s head of new media Sricharan Iyengar.