Not just on the field, sportspersons are giving an adrenaline surge to brands as well, more so recently. And with the FIFA World Cup kicking off in Qatar on November 20, sporting personalities, especially footballers, are much in demand. On Friday, edtech major Byju’s, in the news for layoffs and cash crunch, signed on Lionel Messi, the second-most expensive sport personality, as brand ambassador.
So what makes sports celebrities big draws? “Athletes are achievers for the country and creditable for brands. Endorsements work both ways; for brands to showcase achievers and sportspersons gaining popularity via endorsements,” said Rahul Trehan, chief operating officer, Delhi-based sports management company IOS Sports & Entertainment, which represents Olympic medallists MC Mary Kom, Vijender Singh, Mirabai Chanu, Lovlina Borgohain and Manpreet Singh, apart from Hima Das, Manika Batra, Jinson Johnson and other sportspersons.
Sandeep Goyal, MD, Rediffusion, added: “Film stars are endorsed and preferred by brands because they have a larger-than-life persona. But of late, Bollywood has fallen on bad days and stars have not reduced their prices. The equation of an uncertain Ranveer Singh with 45 endorsements but with no hit film versus a Jasprit Bumrah, who in every match picks up a few wickets, is making it easier for brands to pick sports people.”
The recent ICC T20 World Cup 2022’s India-Pakistan match pushed Virat Kohli’s endorsement score card even higher. Kohli is already among the top four highest earning global sports stars after Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Neymar Junior on Instagram in 2022, as per the Hopper HQ Social Rich List. This year, Kohli joined packaged coffee brand Rage Coffee as an investor and brand ambassador, besides for oral-care start-up Toothsi. Kohli charges $1,088,000 for one social media post. Olympic gold medalist Neeraj Chopra endorses the YouTube campaign — Creating for India… and more. Google India’s recent campaign #bolnesesabhoga has boxing champion Nikhat Zareen to talk about Google’s cool voice search feature. Cricketer MS Dhoni is a preferred choice for advertisers like edtech platform Unacademy, Go Daddy, etc.
“Entertainment and sports are worshipped equally in India, but sports seems to have a deeper connection as the pride of the nation which resonates strongly with audiences,” said Krishna Iyer, director – marketing, MullenLowe Lintas Group. The group has worked with Kohli on Too Yumm! campaigns and MS Dhoni for Unacademy’s latest campaign.
Women sport stars are also inspiring for brands. Long jump champion Shaili Singh joined Adidas’ community of women athletes globally, which includes Mirabai Chanu, Manika Batra, Lovlina Borgohain, Hima Das and Nikhat Zareen, among others. Indian women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal endorses Bajaj Allianz General Insurance.
“A sudden rise in the non-cricket endorsers after Tokyo Olympics 2021 is because of their performance. Chanu won a gold in CWG. Brands look beyond Bollywood and cricket as they have some heart-rending struggle stories, and like to showcase these to people which fit better in brand campaigns,” added Trehan.
Moreover, sport stars are much more popular on social media. Iyer said their reach on Instagram is also important. “Kohli has about 212 million followers and SRK has about 30 million. Sports personalities have certain universality — it cuts across geographies and among audiences. The biggest footballers the world has seen — Ronaldo and Messi — also have about 478 million and 358 million followers, respectively, on Instagram,” he added.
Even the rates for endorsements have increased by 10-15% for sport stars, with more so for A-listers. The endorsement fees for every personality varies based on popularity. It is also based on the type of medium and exposure. Sources said Ranveer Singh, Virat Kohli and Akshay Kumar charge over `5 crore a day for brand endorsements, while Neeraj Chopra charges over `1 crore, Rohit Sharma `2-3 crore, and KL Rahul over `2 crore. Mirabai Chanu charges `80-90 lakh for a one-year deal.
“Even if the individual may not be at the top of his/her game or in the best form, that does not necessarily bring down their brand value. Similarly, the monetary demand of a sports celeb may increase at the time of renewal with a brand which he/she may already be endorsing,” said Iyer.