New Delhi: He endorses 13 brands—the latest additions to his portfolio being Swiss luxury watch Tissot, real estate developer Nitesh Estates and Colgate’s SuperFlexi Toothbrush. He earns well in excess of Rs.100 crore a year from brand endorsements, a milestone only crossed by two other Indian cricketers—Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Virat Kohli’s batting exploits and never-say-die attitude on the field have endeared him not just to fans of cricket, but also made the 27-year-old a marketer’s dream-come-true.
“There are 20-22 categories that he can potentially endorse. He’s already on 13,” said Vinit Karnik, business head (entertainment, sports and live events) at media buying company GroupM.
“Virat, in the last 3-4 months, has risen above everybody’s expectations. His last 10 performances have been spectacular,” Karnik added. “He has shaped well not just as a batsman or as a cricketer but also as a leader and a fit athlete. If he maintains this consistency, he can demand a premium on his existing price when the deals come up for renewal.”
To be sure, Kohli’s potential as a seller of brands was recognized as long as two years ago when he signed a Rs.30 crore, three-year deal with Adidas and a Rs.6.5 crore deal with MRF Tyres Ltd, according to a report by GroupM and SportzPower, a sports business news website.
His recent deal with German luxury car maker Audi is worth Rs.5 crore over an 18-month period, according to estimates by media buyers. And for endorsing Tissot, he is estimated to be pocketing Rs.18 crore, in return for which he will spare the brand nine days over a three-year period.
For Bunty Sajdeh, Kohli’s manager and chief executive officer of sports management agency Cornerstone Sports and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, Kohli is not just about cricket anymore.
“He’s an iconic brand that appeals to the youth of this country. A lot of his traits—fearless, go getter, hungry, passionate and ambitious—are reflective in his brand choices,” Sajdeh said.
His brand associations have to make strategic sense, added Sajdeh.
“I have to be totally convinced that the brand has a plan and a vision about how they plan to use Virat creatively as well as strategically in the marketing of their product. Most of his brands are in sync with his personality,” he said.
According to Sajdeh, the cricketer is looking beyond the endorsements to business investments that will sustain him after his career on the field is over.
“The driving factor is the business investments that outlive his playing career. Obviously, we are very cognizant of the fact that an athlete’s shelf life is not as long as a Bollywood actor’s. There’s only a window of 8-10 years where one peaks. It’s important to capitalize on this period,” explained Sajdeh.
Over the past two years, Kohli has ventured into six avenues—football (FC Goa), tennis (UAE Royals), wrestling (Bengaluru Yodhas), fashion (Wrogn), a chain of gyms (Chisel) and a tech start-up (Sports Convo).
Kohli is a co-owner in all six, but has invested an undisclosed amount only in FC Goa. In the others, he has sweat equity. Basically, he gets money for promoting, marketing and strategizing for all these ventures.
“I, along with my management agency, have been able to build interesting platforms in different businesses. The thought is to have sustainable IPs (intellectual properties), which people identify me with—edgy clothing, fitness centres—they are a natural extension of me. I was naturally excited to explore these ideas. And it has been a great journey so far. I am learning new things about the business every day. I am glad that people have received the brands well,” said Kohli in a Mint article published in January 2016.
Expect two or three new business investments in the lifestyle and technology sectors in the April to June quarter, said Sajdeh. “Virat is in a hurry to do everything,” he said.