ALL DAY on Sunday, television ran stories saying soft drinks giant Pepsi had decided to end Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid's contracts and replace them with youngsters Rohit Sharma and Ishant Sharma.
Well, it might seem that way on the face of it, but if you look below the surface, it's not true. Ganguly's contract with Pepsi reportedly ended even before the Caribbean World Cup a year ago, while Dravid's lapsed late last year.
"We didn't even initiate any discussion on a renewal," Dravid's manager and head of 21st Century Media (TCM), Lokesh Sharma, told the Hindustan Times. "It didn't make sense to us. At different stages of a person's life, he has a different image and is therefore associated with different commercials. When you're a child, it's chocolates, for instance. Rahul now endorses products like banking and insurance, it's a different image, one more suited to what he is now."
A top Pepsi official confirmed to HT that a new campaign is being envisaged around the younger Indian players but that was only because of the nature of the campaign and a need for youth connect. "The decision to promote Ishant and Rohit is part of the company's idea to position Pepsi as a youth brand," said the official.
He said that Rohit and Ishant (and others) had been picked up because of their "attitude". Both are now part of Pepsi's new campaign for 2008, "Yeh hai Youngistaan Meri Jaan".
Incidentally, Pepsi have had both on board for over a while now and it has nothing to do with Dravid and Ganguly's being out of the one-day team.
Ishant's agent and director of Collage Sports Management, Latika Khaneja, said as much. Khaneja, who signed on Ishant in June 2006, said Pepsi had signed him up over six months ago.
Rohit's manager, Gameplan's Yudhajit Dutta, said that both the deals had been done around the same time. "Companies rarely make decisions in a hurry and Pepsi started supporting Rohit as a young cricketer and signed him on six months ago".
"They took on some younger players early on a kind of built-up contract that will develop with time," said Khaneja, adding that the response on Ishant's endorsements had been really good after his Australia performances.
Meanwhile, PepsiCo, which lost out on a bid for an IPL team, still wants to be associated with the League, which begins this April. "We are exploring all possibilities to gain leverage from the series," the official said. Expect more big bucks-related news on the IPL front then.