When India’s most valued celebrity cricketer, Virat Kohli decided to step down from his position as captain on Saturday, the move sent a frisson of anxiety across brand circles. Would they need to revisit their marketing strategies? Would it hit the youth icon’s endorsement deals and fees?

Sandeep Goyal, Managing Director, Rediffusion, said sans the captaincy the avalanche of endorsements seen earlier could abate substantially. “Overall this is a major crossroad for him commercially. If after relinquishing the captaincy he has better scores on the field, his brand equity will sustain longer. Most brands are fence sitters. If he plays well again, there will be loyalty, and if he doesn’t, don’t be surprised if some drop him or ask for a lower price,” he added.

‘Concerning zone’

According to Duff & Phelps’ Celebrity Brand Valuation Report 2020, Kohli topped the charts for the fourth time in a row with his brand value pegged at $237.7 million. He has been seen endorsing a slew of brands including Puma, Tissot, MRF, Great Learning, Audi, Blue Star and Myntra among others. He is also an investor in several entities such as Digit Insurance and owns business ventures such as fashion brand Wrogn.

Aviral Jain, Managing Director, Duff & Phelps India, a Kroll Business said, “Virat Kohli is known for his leadership and aggressive on-field performance and brands have associated their market leading products with that image. With his controversial resignation from the ODI and T20 captaincy and associated exchanges with BCCI, and recent on-field outcomes, brand Kohli had fallen in a concerning zone for marketeers.”

Jain felt that with a sudden step down from Test captaincy, there could be a material impact on signing up new endorsements in the near term. “Brands which have portrayed Kohli as a successful leader would have to revisit their marketing strategies and campaigns,” he said.

He added that brand Kohli, however, continues to enjoy strong social media following with over 265 million followers in 2021. “With the right on-field outcomes, brand Kohli might be able to manoeuvre through these speculative and difficult tracks ahead,” Jain stated.

‘Blue chip stock’

Meanwhile, business strategist and investor Lloyd Mathias believes that Kohli’s decision to step down as India’s test captain will not impact his brand value significantly. “He is still among the world’s best cricketers and at the peak of his career. Also, it’s about his whole persona that has been built up over the years — one half of India’s best known celebrity couple; a caring husband who took time off during the birth of his daughter; a passionate and fitness-oriented athlete and increasingly a smart communicator,” he added.

Manish Porwal, MD, Alchemist Marketing & Talent Solutions believes that brand Virat is like a blue chip stock that is unlikely to see big swings in valuation. “He has reached a certain status that few stars have managed to achieve. The latest development is likely to have a minor or moderate effect on his brand valuation, especially in the long term. While new brands negotiating a deal may want to use this as a factor for negotiation, it’s unlikely to make a difference in the current deals or the choice of Virat as an ambassador,” he added.