Can Prithvi Shaw win fans outside the cricket field? Brands are watching

The 18-year-old talent with the bat Prithvi Shaw has swiftly turned into the new god on the brand altar. He already has four brands in the bag and is believed to have upped his asking fee almost six times to around Rs 10-15 million for a brand in the aftermath of his success. But the question is: can he follow in the footsteps of his peers such as Virat Kohli, M S Dhoni and even Sachin Tendulkar, to whom he is constantly compared? 

Since scoring 100 runs in his test debut on October 4, Shaw has become a darling of the masses. Advertisers and cricket experts are watching him closely too though there has not been a flurry of new endorsement deals falling into this kitty yet, although Shaw has a talent management team looking into his contracts and deals. 

Brands are being cautious say experts. Talent needs to be tempered with consistent performances and a temperament that endears him to fans even outside the field for brands to get truly serious. Shaw seems to be off to a good start. After his debut ton that had fans giddy with excitement and commentators gushing about his promise, on Saturday, the Mumbai-based cricketer showed that he was more than just a one-match wonder when he put 70 runs on the scoreboard quickly in the second test against West Indies. 

Experts say that Shaw will need to be consistent during his next tournaments to woo companies in the long run. The cricketer, who took India to World Cup victory in the Under-19 division earlier this year, has four endorsements currently including MRF, Nike, Protinex, and Indian Oil.

“There is an interesting story behind the rise of Prithvi,” says Indranil Das Blah, co-chief executive, KWAN Entertainment. “People can relate to him much the way they did with a young Sachin Tendulkar 30 years ago. So, brands seeking a wider appeal across masses would be interested in him,” he says.

Tendulkar who debuted in 1989 had set brands aflutter too. Within a year of his debut, he was picked by Johnson & Johnson for an advertisement campaign for Band Aid and by health drink brand, Boost for a joint campaign with legend Kapil Dev. The difference, however, is that while big consumer goods and cola brands took some time to warm up to Tendulkar (the first Pepsi campaign came in 2003), the time taken for them to crowd around Shaw may be significantly shorter. 

Shaw’s management agency Baseline Ventures is acutely aware of the talent in their fold. They are also being watchful of the attention being showered upon him. In fact many were surprised when they ticked off potential marketers by slapping cease-and-desist notices on three companies including Freecharge, Swiggy and Yashodhara Hospitals for congratulating the cricketer for his test century, a sign that he is being groomed for the big stage.

On the radar are categories such as banking and financial services, two-wheelers, start-ups, app-based services, mobile phones and gaming products. While Baseline Ventures could not be immediately reached for comment, Shaw’s asking price, said experts, has already increased to Rs 10-15 million per brand from Rs 2-2.5 million earlier.

“Prithvi was among the big earners during the IPL auction this year, going for Rs 12 million to Delhi Daredevils. This was six times his base price of Rs 2 million. Baseline has taken all these factors into account when hiking his price for brand endorsements,” an executive from a rival celebrity management firm said.

What could tip the scales in Shaw’s favour, said experts, is his on-field behaviour and personality. “It is what you exude (on the field) in addition to performance that could also get brands interested in you,” said N Chandramouli, chief executive officer, TRA, which brings out the annual Brand Trust Report. “Prithvi comes across as a down-to-earth individual. He is willing to take risks. At the same time, he is not over-confident, winning people over with his performance including his captain. Virat (Kohli) had good things to say about him (Prithvi) besides other young players in the national squad after India won the second test against West Indies on Sunday. When the captain reposes his faith in a young player, I don’t think brands would be far away in doing the same,” he says.

Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer, Bijoor Consults, said that Shaw always held promise owing to his early exploits as a child cricketer. “I was reading how this boy would journey from the suburb of Virar in Mumbai to Bandra for his training during his school days. The journey would sap him, but he never gave up,” Bijoor says. It is this quality of his that brands will look for in his future performances. If he clicks in the forthcoming India-Australia series to be played away from home, Shaw could get endorsements quickly, emerging as an alternative to expensive players such as Kohli say brand experts.

Kohli is the highest paid celebrity endorser in the country today, ranked eighty-third among the world’s highest earning athletes in the Forbes’ 2018 list.

He charges around Rs 25-30 million per brand per day, according to experts. And in dollar terms, Forbes said that Kohli’s annual earnings were 24 million this year. Shaw has a big set of shoes to fill, both on and off the field.

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