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Endorsement rates to surge for cricketers

Endorsement rates to surge for cricketers

The endorsement rates some Indian cricketers would be able to charge after winning the World Cup could make the $4 million prize money and the 1 crore per player reward from the cricket board appear like loose change.

Top performers of the tournament such as captain M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Sachin Tendulkar would benefit the most from the victory, advertising executives said.

Cricket is India’s most popular sport, and the one-day international World Cup its biggest tournament. India defeated Sri Lanka in Mumbai on Saturday to win the trophy for the first time after 1983.

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Endorsement rates following the win would be “double at the very minimum", said Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai-based agency.

“The win would put Dhoni in the same bracket as actor Aamir Khan. So few brands will now have the propensity to spend on a celebrity like him, as brands signing these deals would have to cough up money not just for the talent but also for media to run the commercials," Blah said.

Dhoni charges 6-7 crore per endorsement per year and already endorses around 19 brands, including Sony, Pepsi, Reebok and Big Bazaar, leaving only a handful of categories such as financial services and four-wheelers he is yet to enter. That may happen now.

The skipper overcame poor batting form in the tournament to score an unbeaten 91 in the final against Sri Lanka and picked up the man of the match award. It was possibly the most influential captain’s knock in a World Cup match for India since Kapil Dev scored 175 not out against Zimbabwe in 1983 to save his team from elimination.

“As a celebrity, Dhoni’s brand equity has sky-rocketed," said Pratik Sen, managing director, Mindscapes One Ideas Pvt. Ltd, which manages endorsements for Dhoni along with Rhiti Sports. “You will definitely see a hike in endorsement fees," Sen said, adding that a number of contracts will be up for renewal soon.

Dhoni, who hails from Ranchi, has always enjoyed mass market appeal, but his commercial managers are now looking to change him into a premium brand.

“We are trying to revamp the image and will aim to reduce the number of endorsements," said Sen. “It’s a bit cluttered right now, with so many associations. The price factor will play a great role in reducing the number of brands."

India’s sports endorsement market is valued at $50-60 million a year by Harish Krishnamachar, senior vice-president, South Asia, World Sport Group, which manages Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir.

“With the World Cup win, there is a huge emotional connect at this moment with cricket," says Subhinder Singh Prem, managing director, Reebok India, the official sponsor of the World Cup. “As a sports brand, we definitely want to ride the wave, do interesting things and engage with consumers."

Rebook India’s latest campaign for ZigTech shoes features Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, who was dropped as brand ambassador by a number of companies after a lean 2010 season. But the all-rounder scripted a turnaround during the World Cup, scoring 362 runs at an average of over 90 and picking up 15 wickets as well as the player of the tournament award. “He (now) has a lot of big-ticket categories such as auto, beverages, etc., which are open for endorsements," Blah said.

Yuvraj Singh can charge “at least $1 million" now, said Bunty Sajdeh, chief executive of Cornerstone Sport and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, a Mumbai-based agency that manages Yuvraj Singh and Kohli.

Sajdeh admitted that only a limited number of brands would be interested in paying such high rates to brand ambassadors, but said they had started receiving enquires following the semifinal, in which India defeated Pakistan. “We are already in talks with a few brands," he said.

Kohli, one of the younger, more exciting players in the team, started with a century in the opening match against Bangladesh. Though his scores reduced subsequently, he remained an important contributor to the team and made a crucial 35 in the final. He is also one of the team’s best fielders.

“Kohli was already endorsing 11 brands before the World Cup, so in that sense there are just a few slots or categories, such as a mobile handsets or cellular services, that he hasn’t signed endorsements with," said Sajdeh.

He said the asking price for the 22-year-old will double to approximately 2 crore per endorsement.

Even as cricketers raise their endorsement rates, film actors could face the pinch.

“As far as endorsements are concerned, you will see the Bollywood weightage tone down a bit, considering that the Indian Premier League (IPL) is right round the corner," said Santosh Padhi, chief creative officer and co-founder for advertising agency Taproot India Pvt. Ltd.

IPL, a popular Twenty20 cricket tournament, kicks off on 8 April.

Padhi said some sportsmen are able to charge higher that others because, apart from performance, endorsement rates also depend on the ambassador’s personality, ability to act and sell products.

“(Shooter) Abhinav Bindra may have brought home a (Olympic) gold for India," Padhi said, “but it’s boxer Vijender Singh who seems to be walking away with the meaty endorsement deals. Indians like a celebrity who is loud, a little over the top."

Graphic by Uttam Sharma/Mint


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