Raised in the true Indian wrestling tradition of milk-and-ghee, alcohol was never his thing. So, when a leading liquor brand offered Sushil Kumar R50 lakh to appear in a surrogate ad, the London Olympics silver medallist said a firm no.
“I didn’t want to be associated with a liquor brand in any form as it would send a wrong signal to the youth,” said Kumar, the only Indian to win two back-to-back individual Olympic medals.
Surrogate ads involve promoting banned products such as cigarettes and alcohol in the guise of another product.
“The sporting tradition that I have been raised in values discipline way above money,” he said. Kumar’s bronze medal triumph in Beijing four summers ago earned him celebrity status and after the 29-year-old changed “the colour of his medal” in London, his place in Indian sporting history was sealed.
Starved of youth icons —other than cricketers — advertisers found a star in Kumar, who endorses Mountain Dew, Eicher tractors and National Egg Coordination Committee, earning R1 crore annually.
The liquor company has now turned to cricketers, though not all have been keen customers. Two years ago, Sachin Tendulkar turned down a R20-crore offer from a top liquor brand.