Mumbai: If the multitude of brands latching on to him weren’t proof enough, Indian cricket captain M.S. Dhoni displaced teammate Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan to claim the top spot in the second round of Celeb Track, which measures factors such as popularity, image attributes, power of persuasion and media exposure, among others.
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While the cricketer had scored fairly well in round one of the study, conducted by Hansa Research Group Pvt. Ltd and developed jointly with Percept Talent Management, experts say that he probably displaced the little master thanks to his performance in the second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in South Africa.
“While team Chennai wasn’t a finalist, Dhoni’s captaincy was written about extensively in the media and appreciated by experts. This may have resulted in higher ratings for Dhoni, who moved up from No. 2 to the number one slot,” says Vineet Sodhani, associate vice-president, marketing, Hansa Research.
Tendulkar’s team, Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, failed to make the cut in IPL, possibly resulting in his decline to No. 5. Dhoni’s rank over Bollywood bankables such as Bachchan and Khan could also have been a result of the long-standing dispute between producers and multiplex owners.
“The field research was conducted right after the IPL, which may have resulted in better ranking for cricketers, while the stand-off in Bollywood may have put a marginal dent in the rankings for Bollywood stars,” said Manish Porwal, chief executive officer, Percept Talent Management, a division of Percept Ltd.
Dhoni topped the list in Hindi-speaking markets as well as in Karnataka, followed closely by Khan, Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Yuvraj Singh, among others.
IPL also seemed to work for international cricketers. Matthew Hayden scored well on recognition, and was on a par with Indian cricketers such as Anil Kumble and Sunil Gavaskar on likeability and almost as popular as Ishant Sharma.
Similarly, Glenn McGrath scored low on recognition compared with Indian players, but was liked as much as S. Sreesanth and almost as popular as Rohit Sharma.
According to the study, brands looking to reach pan-India audiences would do better to look at cricketers as brand ambassadors owing to their wide appeal. However, considering the limited number of celebrities in that space, Bollywood continues to rule the roost on endorsements across categories.
“Cricket is mainly being played out among three people —Sachin Tendulkar, M.S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh. So in that sense Bollywood is definitely more accessible,” says Porwal.
Interestingly, cricketers scored very high on attributes such as likeability and recognition especially among male respondents as well as people in higher SEC (socio-economic classification) and metros, than with the masses.
While star cricketers such as Dhoni, Tendulkar and Singh were possibly exceptions to the rule, a large number of respondents tend to recognize cricketers more by name than by face, possibly putting forth a challenge to brands who were looking to sign on lesser-known faces.
“Take the case of Abhinav Bindra ; everyone has heard of him, but do they recognize the face? So it probably makes sense to put that little tag in the ad which says Olympic gold medal winner,” says Porwal.
As far as persuasion was concerned, Yuvraj Singh took the top slot among cricketers followed by Dhoni, Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. On the overall score, the top cricketers also did well on the persuasion chart with more sway over men. Cricketers also scored high on persuasion when it came to hi-tech products, with Dhoni topping the chart, followed by Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, cricketer Yuvraj Singh, Rai and Khan among others.
While Tendulkar lost out in the rankings to the newer cricketers such as Dhoni and Singh in categories such as general, health, hi-tech, cosmetics and indulgence, he held fort when it came to categories such as finance for strong associations with attributes such as trust and maturity.
Celeb Track, jointly owned by Percept Talent and Hansa Research, covers at least 12,000 respondents (urban, all adults, SEC ABCD and 15-50 years), in 39 towns and nine markets across India in a period of two waves annually.
The study covers at least 400 celebrities across the country and includes celebrities from movies, cricket, other sports, music and television.
“We’re going beyond the gut feel to something more scientific. It’s very easy to figure out who the top guy is and who the bottom guy is, but what about the middle? That’s where the study can come handy and tell you exactly which celebrity will work best for you in a particular situation,” says Porwal.
Celeb Track will also look to expand base of celebrities.
“Eventually, we would also like to cover politicians. And that would be great! Lalu (Prasad, the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief), for example, would be perfect for a brand that wants to have fun, but at the end of the day the celebrity has to be fit and willing for endorsements,” Porwal adds.
Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint