New Delhi: He’s 42, an age considered too old for a top brand icon. He retired from his profession—playing cricket—over 18 months ago, is rarely seen in public, doesn’t have a voice suited to radio or television commentary (the sinecure of choice for retired players) and was never much of a showman even in his playing days.

You would expect him to have faded away from an all-too-fickle public memory. But then you’re not talking about any ordinary cricketer here.

Meet Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, post-retirement. The cricket legend may have lost a bit of the charm he held for advertisers who sought him out to plug their brands when he was at the peak of his career, but he still has a sizeable portfolio of endorsements.

TAM AdEx data between January and March, comparable over the three years starting 2013, indicates that his endorsements have declined from 12 brands to four. But that is because TAM AdEx, a specialist division of TAM Media Research, captures data on advertising categories and volumes only on the basis of commercials shown on television. So it excludes brands (and brand ambassadors) without any ads on air currently.

Tendulkar is the brand ambassador for Luminous Power Technologies Pvt. Ltd, Musafir.com, BMW India Pvt. Ltd, Aviva Life Insurance Co. Ltd, MRF Ltd, DM Healthcare Pvt. Ltd, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the International Cricket Council.

At his peak, the man with 13 Guinness world records to his credit endorsed 18-20 brands. Among them were German sportswear maker Adidas, the energy drink Boost from GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s consumer healthcare portfolio and beverage maker PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt. Ltd.

Tendulkar, who commanded a fee of 6-7 crore per endorsement in his playing days, has lost some of his attractiveness and relevance for advertisers, experts say. His brand value—defined as the sum of his earnings from all endorsements—declined from an estimated 120 crore at the end of 2013 to 75 crore in 2014, according to a sports report jointly published by GroupM, a media-buying agency of WPP Plc, and SportzPower, a sports business news company.

This was one of key factors for a 29% drop in overall cricket endorsement deals from 360.5 crore in 2013 to 255.7 crore last year, the report said.

“Indian marketers want currency and salience. It’s all about here and now. If we are at such a basic level of brand building which rests primarily on visibility, then Sachin will not be the obvious choice," said a sports marketing professional on condition of anonymity.

“It’s the natural order of things," according to Santosh Desai, chief executive officer of Future Brands, the brand consultancy of Kishore Biyani’s Future Group. “People who are contemporary, playing and performing are the people who tend to attract the attention of brands much more than people who have retired," he said.

According to Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer at Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, the diminishing interest in Brand Sachin is understandable.

“It’s inevitable when someone stops playing in a young country like India. We have a lot of young people with limited recall or short-term memory. It’s like a fad with the flavour of the season changing swiftly," he said.

On average, cricketers choose to retire at about 35, although some international players such as Brian Lara (38) and Jacques Kallis (39) retired much later.

“Brands prefer to engage with younger icons to engage with their consumers," Blah said.

Damyant Singh, brand director at Adidas India, sees merit in connecting with the young.

“While legends of the game are never forgotten, younger cricketers enable us to connect with the next generation of athletes, and their influence goes beyond the realm of sport," he said.

Youthful sports figures have a massive influence on the young, according to Singh. For instance, Virat Kohli, 26, has 21 million fans on Facebook and young consumers closely follow his posts.

Kohli set the advertising world abuzz when he signed a three-year deal worth 30 crore with Adidas. He also struck a 6.5-crore-a-year deal with MRF for sponsoring his bat. The two deals made the Indian One-Day International (ODI) vice-captain top both Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 33, whom he replaced as India’s Test captain, and Tendulkar in terms of annual earnings per endorsement, according to the report by GroupM and SportzPower.

Adidas’s portfolio of cricketers includes current Indian Test captain Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manan Vohra, Unmukt Chand, Sarfaraz Khan and K.L. Rahul. “They enable us to deliver what we stand for through our brand campaigns and activations," Singh added.

Tendulkar announced his retirement from ODIs in December 2012. He retired from Twenty20 cricket in October 2013, and subsequently announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on 16 November 2013 after playing his 200th and final Test match, against the West Indies at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium. Tendulkar played 664 international cricket matches in total, scoring 34,357 runs.

“Brand Sachin Tendulkar has evolved to a mature category in comparison to the action-based brands. This aspect is visible in the present set of brand relationships," a spokesperson for World Sports Group, the agency that has handled his endorsements for the last seven years, said. “This shift has also resulted in newer product segments being interested in associating with Sachin."

A person close to Tendulkar’s endorsements business said that signing fewer deals was the player’s own choice, linking it to his winning India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, which was conferred on him last year.

“I do believe it’s a personal choice. The moment he got the Bharat Ratna, something changed. We have had a bunch of proposals come in, but he’s not been keen," this person said on condition of anonymity.

According to Hiren Pandit, chief operating officer at TransStadia, a sports marketing and infrastructure firm, Tendulkar’s brand value has changed, not declined.

“The kind of brands he endorses will also change.When Sachin was actively playing, he was on screen every day. Now, he will endorse far more sober and mature brands. The aggressively advertising categories will not be a choice at the moment," Pandit said.

Pandit said his endorsements will depend on how he portrays himself and how visible he is. He believes Tendulkar doesn’t have a voice that can lend itself to cricket commentary.

Blah sees that as a plus point. “If I was his manager, I would keep him away from run-of-the-mill commentary and other ancillary activities. For Sachin, you need to sell his legacy—as India’s greatest sportsman ever," he said.

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