As the 2018 edition of India’s biggest cricket bonanza drew to a close, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) rode the mass frenzy to communicate a theme close to its heart: financial literacy.

In television, newspaper and radio advertisements aired during the eleventh season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), cricketers including K.L. Rahul, Umesh Yadav, Shabaz Nadeem, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda and Dhruv Shorey—all of whom play for the Indian Premier League (IPL) as well—spoke about no-frills savings accounts and the importance of creating a savings pool.

In case you wonder how much RBI spent on hiring these national level players, the answer is: None. All of them are RBI employees and also the new “brand ambassadors" of the central bank, as the regulator likes to call them.

Cricketers hired under the sports quota of RBI are paid salaries like regular RBI employees. The central bank, in turn, is increasingly looking to leverage their brand value for its financial awareness campaign, substantially curtailing advertisement expenditure as no additional remuneration is to be paid to cricketers on its payroll. According to industry experts, the fee for these cricketers would typically range between Rs5 lakh and Rs30 lakh for TV spots.

“Going forward, more sportspersons including women will be involved in these campaigns. So far, cricketers have been involved as more people recognize them," an RBI official on condition of anonymity, adding getting in reputed players allows for better connect with people.

“The cricketers were on our payroll already. Incidentally, the timing of IPL and our mass media campaign coincided. We thought why not use the in-house talent for the campaign instead of getting the brand ambassadors from outside," an RBI spokesperson told Mint. Targeted at educating people who have been financially included recently, the campaign includes messages on basic savings bank accounts, steps to avoid falling prey to fictitious emails, ensuring safety in digital financial transactions, and usage of Rs10 coins, among others. The RBI is looking to get maximum traction from its recently formulated “sports vision", a brainchild of former deputy governor S.S. Mundra.

“When I joined RBI, I was invited to preside over the annual sports meet involving various RBI zones. What stood out was that most of the players were beyond their prime. I felt that earlier RBI had some prominent teams that would win at the national level which was no longer the case. After making some enquiries internally, I figured that the recruitment was merely being done as a compliance measure and thought that if we need to recruit sportspersons why not create a broad arching policy for recruitment of sportsperson at RBI," Mundra told Mint recalling his tenure at the RBI.

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