Celebrity endorsements are on the rise but clearly advertisers seem to be investing in film stars for more secure returns. Amitabh Bachchan emerged as the biggest investment for advertisers in 2006, gathering a humungous 708 hours of advertising and endorsing 41 brands, followed by Shahrukh Khan, who endorsed 35 brands and rode 650 hours of television airtime last year.
In comparison, our cricketing icons were way behind. Sachin Tendulkar endorsed 17 brands and had just 121 hours of TV airtime, one-third that of the Big B. Rahul Dravid fared better with 180 hours and 16 brand endorsements.
Among sports celebrities, Dhoni was the clear leader whose batting élan and cavalier style made him a choice pick. Backing 23 brands and with 353 hours of airtime through the year, Dhoni was the only cricketer that made it to the top 12 celebrity endorsers.
The big picture, according to data collated by TAM Media's subsidiary, AdEx, is that celebrity endorsements are rising phenomenally, notching 60 per cent growth in TV airtime in 2006 over the previous year and a five-fold increase since 2003. Of this 70 per cent was accounted for by film celebrities.
Besides the recent drubbing cricketers have got as brand ambassadors, the long-term story of cricket is a downhill one. For instance, Sachin Tendulkar, endorsed 202 hours on television airtime in 2004. This fell to 137 hours in 2005 and finally 120 hours in 2006. Endorsements are clearly linked to performance, and Tendulkar's lower airtime has followed his performance on the field. Out-of-form Virendra Sehwag and, earlier, Sourav Ganguly too paid the price. Sehwag's television appearances fell from 133 hours in 2005 to 89 hours last year, while Ganguly lost more than half his endorsement time, clocking just 51 hours last year compared to 11 hours in 2005.
For Dravid though, despite his good form in the last two years, commercial airtime riding on him fell from 200 hours in 2005 to 180 hours in 2006.
Sania Mirza, on the other hand, did not get too bruised even though she has had some long, bad patches on court. One of the reasons, brand managers say, is her emergence as a compelling youth icon. In her case, ad endorsements jumped more than three times from 76 hours in 2005 to 251 hours in 2006.
Endorsements by film actresses were the highest, growing 95 per cent jump in 2006 over the previous year. Leading the pack was Aishwariya Rai, who accounted for 408 hours of advertising time on television last year.