Would India’s winning the ICC Cricket World Cup change the dynamics of celebrity endorsements in advertising? In a country where a lot of advertising rides on celebrities, will we see our cricketers commanding more of the endorsement pie than earlier, with the coveted cup coming home after a gap of 28 years?
According to TAM Media Research, calendar 2010 saw Bollywood celebrities dominating a whopping 85.3% of the endorsement ad pie. Sports persons endorsing brands had a far more humble 12.3% share (dominated by cricketers). The rest was made up by TV actors.
Will the World Cup win, followed by the ongoing IPL4, break open the endorsement opportunity beyond Bollywood? There’s no doubt that the win has boosted Indian cricketers’ iconic value greatly, heightening Mahndra Singh Dhoni’s, Virender Sehwag’s and Sachin Tendulkar’s stature even further; bringing back Yuvraj Singh into the reckoning; and putting Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli into the spotlight.
“Most advertisers in India are currently using celebrities as the easier route to create recall. There are very few instances of a good brand fit. In that perspective, brands use and abuse cricketers for endorsements. Dhoni endorses brands catering to both ends of the spectrum. In general, heroism rules and the World Cup win may possibly add some vigour to that trend,” said Ragothaman Gowthaman, leader, South Asia, Mindshare.
“It’s not everyday that you win a World Cup. The last time India brought the world in a cup was in 1983 and cricket was not much commercialised then. So definitely, there will be more contracts. The party will last, maybe not for four years but at least for another year," said Jeet Banerjee, MD and promoter, Gameplan, a sports marketing agency.
“World Cup has kind of greased the wheels for many cricketers and opened up the market for endorsements. So while earlier Bollywood ruled 80% of the market, after the World Cup win, cricket’s overall contribution to the endorsement circuit has gone up by around 30%,” said Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sports and Entertainment, the agency handling Singh’s and Kohli’s celebrity endorsements.
Sharda Agarwal, co-founder and director of marketing consultancy MarketGate, felt that after the World Cup win, the cricketers’ endorsement share could rise to a 35% of the endorsement ad pie. She reasoned from a brand perspective: “The celebrity endorsement net for cricketers is certainly going to be cast wider. These cricketers have given the country recognition in one month. Look at the World Cup television ratings on India matches. Leave aside Dhoni and Tendulkar, Kohli and Gambhir have become household names and they are still far more affordable than the more established icons.”
TAM data shows that while last calendar, Dhoni was the only sports celebrity in the top 10 celebrity endorsers’ list and that too, at number 10, during the World Cup play between February and early April this year, Dhoni led the celebrity — cricket and Bollywood —charge, while Tendulkar and Sehwag occupied the fourth and sixth positions respectively.
There is, of course, this view that cricket is seasonal while Bollywood celebrities are able to represent much more on an ongoing basis in endorsements and, therefore, the win may not really expand the cricketers’ share of the pie significantly.
Agarwal agreed: “While Bollywood provides continuity, cricket is tournament-dependent. While India is playing almost continuous cricket this year, Test series do not bring as much excitement as one-day or T20 matches. The next exciting thing will now be the Championship Trophy towards the year-end. So I don’t see a major endorsement shift away from Bollywood to cricket.”
“Contract fee escalation is notional. A cricketer’s contract fee will not escalate overnight. Brands simply re-negotiate the contract with a cricketer and, depending upon the demand and supply needs or other requirements, go for a new contract binding. Cricket is topical and if a brands wishes to retain a cricketer, it ends up paying more. Even then, there will be no major change in endorsement fees post the World Cup win,” said Latika Khaneja, owner and founder of Collage Sports Management.
Others point out that while the World Cup may have thrown up new heroes, IPL4 is also throwing up more — Kings XI Punjab’s Paul Valthaty’s unbeaten 120 runs in 63 balls and Mumbai Indians’ Ambati Rayadu’s impressive batting, for example. But surely such players need to play and perform in the national team first to be considered for ads?
“Unless,” Agarwal observed, “someone such as Valthaty — Rayudu has been around for sometime — consistently performs in IPL.”
Kohli has 11 endorsements already under his belt. Dhoni is endorsing 24 brands. While Singh continues with the four endorsements he’d signed before the World Cup commenced, industry sources say that a number of brands have evinced interest in signing him on after the World Cup.There is an industry estimation that deal values, on an average, will go up by 25-30% for cricketers. Depending on which cricketer and how much a brand wants him, some new deals and even renewal deals may be settled at even higher fees than the expected average. There is going to be, according to industry experts, some urgency among cricketers and their agents to try and convert as many deals fast, while the euphoria lasts and IPL4 continues to keep cricket top of mind.
Bollywood and cricket will continue to hog the endorsement limelight. As new deals and renewals are signed, we will get a better idea of how much more clout India’s cricketers will command in the advertising endorsement space. While we are still too close off the World Cup win to estimate how many more endorsement contracts the cricketers will sign and how many more cricketers will sign contracts, there is no doubt that a lot of deals will be signed as celebrity-endorsed advertising in India grows further. As the pie itself expands, there is bound to be a lot more for India’s cricketers to sign on.