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Dhoni hits a six with his contract

business Updated: Jul 14, 2010 00:44 IST
Anita Sharan

The wedding register was not the only important document on which India's cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni affixed his signature last week.

He signed an endorsement deal with Rhiti Sports Management and Mindscape One for three years — for a staggering Rs 210 crore. This is the most expensive deal signed by a sportsperson in India, easily eclipsing Sachin Tendulkar's Rs 180 crore, 3-year deal with Iconix, signed in 2006.

While it would be unfair to compare the two deals given the gap of four years, there is no denying that Dhoni's deal is highly attractive.

The Rhiti Sports Management-Mindscape One joint venture won the Dhoni account in a competitive pitch against several agencies such as PMG-Madison, World Sports Group, IMG, Percept Group and several others.

Rhiti is already handling the accounts of Harbajan Singh and RP Singh.

"The reason we won this account was because our pitch value was by far the highest," said Sangeet Shirodkar, president (marketing), Rhiti Sports. "Our company's head, Arun Pandey, has known Dhoni for some time, and we were the only agency looking at more than just brand endorsements. We are planning to take Dhoni beyond brand endorsements to licensing and creating brands around him. That is what swung his decision in our favour."

On why Dhoni commands such a high endorsement value, Shirodkar said: "As a cricketer and as a person, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is at a peak. Look at his cricketing achievements and you'll appreciate that such a value is very possible for him."

"Sachin Tendulkar remains a legend, but Dhoni is the face of new India," said Mahesh Ranka, GM - India, Relay Worldwide, which is the sports practice arm of the Starcom MediaVest Group. "India's youth, who make up a majority of her population, identify with his aggression and composure on the field."

Moreover, he said, "Dhoni has come up a dependable brand name — there are no controversies around him; he's an icon; and he's a safe brand to associate with."

The fact that Tendulkar is in his sunset years, while Dhoni still has a good many cricketing years ahead of him is another factor.

Indian tradition says the bride brings the goddess of wealth with her to the husband's home. Dhoni in any case seems to be bearing out that belief.