MS Dhoni, who has featured in lists of the world’s highest-paid athletes and cricketers, earned more than `100 crore a year from brand endorsement fees in his heydays
Former captain of the Indian cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been as much a fan favourite as he is a bankable endorser for various brands over the course of his international cricketing career that lasted 15 years.
MS ‘Captain Cool’ Dhoni, who has featured in lists of the world’s highest-paid athletes and cricketers, earned more than `100 crore a year from brand endorsement fees in his heydays. Dhoni’s recent retirement, however, begets the question, can his brand value endure this move and if companies would keep roping him in for endorsements in the future?
Dhoni’s business partner Arun Pandey feels his retirement will not affect his brand endorsements. “We have signed a dozen deals in the past one year and several brands approached us recently for signing him on,” he told FE.
The cricketer currently endorses over 25 brands, including BharatMatrimony, Oppo, Dream11, Mastercard, ICICI Bank, ITC’s Sunfeast Yippee and TVS. Brand gurus, however, say while he has been an iconic sportsman and his brand value will stay strong for a while, it will diminish over time.
“Being a cricket legend, Dhoni will be able to command brand endorsements until people relate to him. It is a function of recall, recognition, resilience and ROI,” says Sandeep Goyal, chairman, Mogae Media. “For instance, people who have watched cricket in the Seventies and Eighties revere Sunil Gavaskar or Kapil Dev, but Gen Z won’t relate much to them.”
The trend is already visible in Dhoni’s brand valuation, which has gone down over the years. As per Duff & Phelps, while Dhoni was the third-most valued endorser in the country in 2014 at $72 million, his value came down to $41 million in 2019. As per industry sources, the cricketer has also dropped his endorsement fee in recent years to `4-5 crore annually, which was `10 crore at his peak.
The fall, however, going ahead won’t be as drastic, industry watchers say, given the feats achieved by him. Dhoni was captain of the Indian cricket team when it won the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 and ICC T20 World Cup in 2007.
“Cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni are in a different league. While their value was at the peak when they were playing, they can retain some of it post-retirement by being present in media through expert panels, TV commentary, playing IPL, etc,” says Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting.
Sachin Tendulkar, who retired from international cricket in 2013, has been able to retain his brand value to an extent. The cricketer was charging a fee of Rs 10 crore for endorsements while in top form; currently, he charges Rs 7 crore annually, say industry sources. The player, just after his retirement in 2014, was valued at $30 million by Duff & Phelps and in 2019, dropped a few notches to $25 million.
“Brand Sachin is not just about being a cricketer but also how he is as a human being. We still have brands approaching us,” says Mrinmoy Mukherjee, CEO of Tendulkar’s management team SRT Sports Management. The type brands being endorsed by these players also change once they retire. “Brands into fitness and or those targeting a younger demographic would sign up these players when they were active but after retirement, it becomes more about their heritage and not the on-field performance,” says Sinha. Therefore, more mature brands tend to bring them aboard. Tendulkar, for instance, who has endorsed brands like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Adidas and Sunfeast, now endorses 15 brands, including Apollo Tyres, Gillette, Livpure, IDBI Federal Life Insurance, DBS Bank, etc. But experts also caution that players need to be in the eye of the public and also work on their off-field image to keep their brand value alive.