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Advertisers queue up to sign Sania Mirza

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Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi, Jan. 20

NOT just tennis fans, but advertisers too have trained their eyes on tennis star Sania Mirza. Even as the young tennis star gears up for a historic third round clash against Serena Williams in the Australian Open on Friday, brands of all hues have queued up to sign her on.

Speaking to Business Line, Mr C.G.K. Bhupathi, who along with tennis star son Mahesh Bhupathi owns Globo Media Solutions said, "We have been receiving several enquiries from various companies. Sania has a very exciting personality and is an extremely saleable star. She can be a brand ambassador for any product." Bhupathi senior has earlier coached Ms Mirza and manages her now.

Elaborating on this, Mr Anirban Das Blah, Vice-President of the company said, "Initially we did not get too many offers. But in the last two days close to 15 different brands have approached us." These include a cellular service provider, cellphone handset maker, cola companies, women's wear brands and some personal care product companies. Currently, Sania Mirza has signed up with the Hyderabad-based GVK Industries, Sahara India and Tata Tea.

However, Globosport, the sports division of the company, will be discerning in choosing the endorsement deals. "We would like Sania to concentrate on training. She has already taken on three sponsorship deals and we may be in a position to add a couple more," Mr Das Blah added.

According to an advertising industry official, "Unlike the West, tennis in India is still a niche sport. Though there are very few upmarket brands supporting the sport in India now, with better performances the interest levels will only go up." The Tata Group, through Tata Open, ITC Foods' The Sunfeast Open for women and Adidas have been the main supporters of the game.

Earlier, the tennis duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes were brand ambassadors of Adidas and J Hampstead. "They commanded Rs 20 lakh - Rs 25 lakh per ad," said the ad industry executive.

Meanwhile, Star Sports, which is airing the Australian Open live, is hoping to get more eyeballs. "We expect more people to tune in and watch the historic match," said a channel official.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 21, 2005)
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