There is something strange — if not outlandish — in the monthly British magazine SportsPro’s top-50 rankings for global sporting personalities, which names India Test skipper Virat Kohli as the “Third Most Marketable Sportsperson” in the world.
The magazine has named the 27-year-old — whose insatiable appetite for runs has seen him pitchfork RCB from the brink of elimination and into Sunday’s IPL final — ahead of global stars such as Lionel Messi and Novak Djokovic.
While Kohli is arguably the most marketable athlete in cricket-crazy India, what defies conventional wisdom is him being ranked much ahead of the Barcelona superstar Messi (ranked 27th), Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton (24th) and No1 men’s tennis player Djokovic (23rd) on a global scale.
Indranil Das Blah, partner at sports and celebrity management firm CAAKwan told HT, “I am not too sure of how this could happen... Cricket is being played in random 15 countries across the globe, whereas soccer mania crosses more than 200 countries. One cannot be a global sports star with cricket and surpass Lionel Messi when it comes to recognition and value. For India, cricket could be a major sport; in the world, it is not that well known. Hence, the popularity of Virat is also limited to cricket-freak nations.”
Ad man Piyush Pandey, creative director of global ad agency Ogilvy & Mather India and South Asia, said, “The rating given to Virat Kohli is quite difficult to swallow, I have no idea how they have derived the rankings. Cricket followers across the world are much smaller than soccer followers. However, I feel good for Virat that he has featured among the list which comprises of famous athletes.”
Interestingly, last year, the magazine which claims to rank athletes on monetary value, age, country of origin, charisma, hunger for the spotlight etc, gave Canada’s tennis player Eugenie Bouchard the No 1 spot. Bouchard, then 21, topped the list ahead of Djokovic, sprint king Usain Bolt and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
On Thursday, even as she was being pummeled by Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in the French Open second round, the magazine — whose circulation of 20,000 mostly caters to F1 racing teams; the Glazer family, owners of Manchester United Club and the International Olympic Committee among others — was in the process of downgrading her to the 39th spot.
A drop of 38 places over a year means the magazine surely got their mathematics wrong on more than one count.
While Bouchard’s roll of honour on the website last year read, “…there will be those who point gravely towards a lengthy line of hyped-up youngsters who have promised so much and gone on to win so little, there are no grounds to write her off just yet”, on Friday, it stated, “Sport, as it happens, is not predictable. That turns out to be a key part of its appeal.”
Santosh Sood, former COO of ad agency Rediffusion Y&R says, “It depends on the parameters they have used to evaluate the brand value of Kohli. Though it’s hard to believe that he has overtaken Messi, Neymar and Hamilton... but it depends on criteria being used... Virat is hugely marketable but not across the globe.”
The question thus remains, should one take these rankings on face value?