PV Sindhu ranked seventh in Forbes list of highest-paid women athletes

P V Sindhu
Even as PV Sindhu won her first round at the ongoing Asian Games, social media has been abuzz with news about her debut on the Forbes Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2018 list. The stylish shuttler, who broke into the national consciousness with her silver medal at the Rio Olympics 2016, has come a long way on the endorsement table, riding on the back of consistent performances and some smart strategizing by her managers.

The list, released by Forbes earlier this week ranks Sindhu at number seven with earnings of $8.5 million, one spot below American tennis player Venus Williams ($9.5 million) and one spot above Romanian tennis player Simona Halep ($7.7 milion). While this will get more brands with bigger budgets to queue up, her managers say, do not expect a slew of new endorsement announcements. In keeping with her strategy thus far, her managers intend to become even more discerning when it comes to signing new deals. “Her brand has matured and now, she can be even more selective in terms of the brands she signs. In 2014, we had to hard sell her. But now, since 2016, she’s proven to be determined and consistent. She’s become a household name,” says Ramakrishnan R, co-founder and director, Baseline Ventures, the agency that manages her. 

It is often seen that celebrities in sports and Bollywood, once in demand, look to make the most of their time in the sun, says a brand expert. They go on a signing spree and he cites the example of Virat Kohli, India’s highest paid endorsement star, who is the face of more than 20 brands which include snacks, sports apparel, banks, mobile phones, and radio cab services. In contrast Sindhu has 11 on her list and intends to be even more selective about the labels she picks, hereon.

“The danger with signing on so many brands is that the celebrity could end up finding his own brand diluted. Also, being the face of a brand is not only about the money. The audience will instantly associate the celebrity to the brand when something goes wrong. It has happened in the past,” says Sandeep Goyal, founder, Mogae Media. 

The ESP Sportzpower report on sports sponsorships,  released earlier this year, put PV Sindhu in the third place among sports endorsers in India, behind Team India captain Virat Kohli and former India captain MS Dhoni. Sindhu currently has a three year contract with Baseline Ventures, a sports marketing and management company. Her total deal size is Rs 500 million over three years (2017-2020). Consequently, Forbes pegs her endorsement value at $8 million (around Rs 560 million at current 
exchange rates). The Sportzpower report on the other hand estimated her total endorsement value at Rs 300 million, basing its calculations on the brands that she has signed thus far. 
Ramakrishnan adds that there will be an appreciation in the ticket size of endorsement deals, but refused to put a number to it saying, “It is subjective since every deal is different. But of course, we won’t go below a certain benchmark.” 

Sindhu has a varied assortment of brands currently. In all these categories however the aim is to position her as a self-made individual who plays for the country. She is also the face of government schemes such as GST and last year, she was named the official face of the Central Reserve Police Force. 

Sindhu is among the athletes supported by Edelweiss’ philanthropic arm EdelGive. Shabnam Panjwani, head, marketing and communications, Edelweiss Group, says, “We believe that women athletes are a good return on investment. They show real achievement and grit, even though there are so many odds against them. More importantly, they serve as true change agents, inspiring many young girls across the country. We have been working with young talent through Olympic Gold Quest to support the right talent and our association with PV Sindhu from 2011 is a testament to timely support going a long way.”

Not everyone sees the endorsement journey to be smooth for Sindhu and other women athletes, despite their wins and global rankings, however. For one, badminton is not the most popular and most televised sport in the country. This consequently means that the visibility of badminton players is much less than say cricketers or even football players at times. While the domestic football and kabaddi leagues have found an audience, increasing year on year, the badminton league has had no such luck says one expert. However, Ramakrishnan is optimistic about the shuttler’s endorsement career. “She is young, and she’s hungry for gold,” he says.
Brand list  

P V Sindhu endorses 11 brands and is the face of a few public service campaigns

  • Bank of Baroda
  • Bridgestone
  • Gatorade
  • Nokia
  • Vizag Steel
  • Panasonic Batteries
  • Ojasvita
  • GST awareness campaign
  • Himalaya Honey
  • Moov
  • Myntra


P V Sindhu
  • Rank: 7 
  • Total earnings: $8.5 million
  • Forbes Highest-Paid Female Athletes 2018

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