Cricket, not Olympics, wins gold in endorsement game

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on January 17, 2018

Kanpur, 10/10/2015: Indian team captain M.S.Dhoni with teammate Suresh Raina during the net practice session at the Green Park Stadium, in Kanpur on Saturday. Photo : R. V. Moorthy -   -  The Hindu

For advertisers, even an Olympic star isn’t glam enough

Olympic medal winner Sakshi Malik or stunning vault performer Dipa Karmakar may grab some big-money sponsorship deals and cash awards, but brand valuations and endorsement fees commanded by athletes continue to be lower than those of cricketers.

That’s because it’s the popularity and glam quotient that counts with brands when they partner with sport stars — and cricket still tops.

Despite the emergence of multi-sport leagues, experts believe it will take a while before athletes reap commercial benefits in terms of endorsement cheques.

Neerav Tomar, Managing Director and CEO, IOS Sports & Entertainment, said, “There is a huge difference in the endorsement fees commanded by an Olympian and a cricket star.

“A top cricketer may earn ₹4-5 crore for a brand endorsement deal.

“A top athlete who has excelled in a non-cricket sport may at best earn ₹80 lakh-₹1 crore in endorsement fees.”

With its eyes squarely on returns on investments, India Inc continues to be conservative when it comes to betting on sporting personalities. Though some like JSW and Reliance Foundation do invest in development of sports at the grassroots level, most still wait for these athletes to perform and watch their consistency before investing, say talent managers.

Typically, an Olympic medal winner can earn ₹35-50 lakh per deal depending on their performance, buzz generated, and personality, they add.

The likes of Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza and Vijender Singh are among the few exceptions who have secured lucrative brand endorsement deals. But even their endorsement fees would be lower than what a cricketer earns.

However, Indranil Das Blah, Partner, Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions, says not all cricket stars earn hefty endorsement fees. “Only a few top cricketers earn hefty deals. The next rung of cricketers earns as much as the top athletes who have consistently performed well in Olympic sports,” he said.

N Chandramouli, CEO of brand insights firm TRA, said some athletes may have managed to break the glass ceiling but it’s not enough.

“Brand managers and marketing heads need to get out of their comfort zones and leverage these sports icons to reach out to their target audiences instead of carpet bombing their campaigns by associating with cricket,” he added.

Published on August 18, 2016

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