Kohli leads endorsement pack, while cricket dominates sponsorship track

In 2019, of the 70 new brand endorsement deals being signed, 50 went to cricket players. With these new contracts, the sports business in the country clocked 329 valid endorsement deals last year, out of which 228 involved cricketers.
Brands ran a two-horse race with Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni taking away 63 per cent of all endorsement deals in cricket, while the sport bagged lions share in 2019. This is in spite of the best efforts of sports leagues, marketers and athletes who have all tried to raise the profile of non cricket sports with brands and marketers for the past few years.

 

The big thrust for the sport in 2019 came from franchise cricket, specifically the IPL that saw a 15 per cent increase in its valuation and the ICC World Cup, according to Sporting Nation in the Making VII, a report by ESP Sports, a Group-M company. However the year 2020 may craft a completely new story as the tournament has been postponed in the wake of Covid-19.

 

Just as cricket dominated the sports sponsorship domain, cricketers ruled the endorsement industry that grew by 11 per cent. In 2019, of the 70 new brand endorsement deals being signed, 50 went to cricket players. With these new contracts, the sports business in the country clocked 329 valid endorsement deals last year, out of which 228 involved cricketers. 

 

Kohli was the brightest star on the firmament, crossing the Rs 200 crore mark. Dhoni playing the last few matches of his career added five new brands to his list and was the second most valuable sports endorser, while Sachin Tendulkar, six years past his retirement, crossed the ­­­­­­­Rs 25 crore mark and was the third most valuable sports brand in 2019.

Even as cricket refurbished its kitty, attracting more brands and money than ever before and more than any other game played in the country, other sports saw a 10 per cent decline in revenues. Why does cricket continue to score while the other games struggle? Sandeep Goyal, brand strategist and founder Mogae Media says, “The continued ascendancy of cricket is not surprising. It is the only sport in which we are world class, and beat other big teams consistently. Winning brings fans and advertisers are smart enough to know which way the wind is blowing.”

 

It helps that cricket is played round-the-year too and continues to attract new players and viewers. According to Goyal, while cricket does get the maximum share of endorsements in the country, not all cricketers get a chance to rake in the moolah. It is usually a case of the captain getting it all, although Dhoni is an aberration as he has continued to attract brands even after giving up his captaincy.

 

However, a senior sports professional who preferred to stay anonymous said that cricket’s ‘winner takes all’ syndrome demonstrates a singular lack of imagination on the part of the brands. They go looking for cricketing stars, without any research on brand fit, need and purpose. And as for the payers, he believes, they are playing a short-term game. “Take Dhoni. The man has so much going for him that can build himself into a legacy brand, but he is representing every product or service that comes his way. He probably thinks he has a limited window to cash in on,” he says. But Captain Cool can surely do better, he believes.

 



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