Brash is in. Virat Kohli, the skipper of the Indian cricket team, has been on a winning streak this year. And not all of this has been on the cricket field. Kohli has now won the mantle of the most valuable celebrity, displacing the suave, king of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan. His rise marks the emergence of a challenge to Bollywood celebrities from the sports brigade. Given his string of brand endorsements and his solid performance on the field, Kohli has been crowned the most valuable celebrity brand endorser with brand value of $144 million by Duff & Phelps in its report, Rise of the Millennials: India’s Most Valuable Celebrity Brands. With 18 million followers on Instagram and around 20 brand endorsements to his credit, including the likes of Puma, Manyavar, Audi and Gionee, Kohli’s brand value jumped 56% in 2017 from 2016. In addition to this, the cricketer has also invested in co-owned brands such as Wrogn, Muve Acoustics, FC Goa and Chisel. Earlier this year, Kohli discontinued his relationship with soft drink brand Pepsi, stating that he would only endorse brands with an athletic and pro-health image, positioning himself as a conscientious endorser.
Brand experts expect Kohli’s popularity to only rise in near future with IPL 11 on the anvil. His hush-hush marriage to Bollywood star Anushka Sharma has also drawn a lot of media and public attention. Duff & Phelps observes that millennial endorsers are replacing older faces, and Kohli replacing Shah Rukh Khan as India’s top-ranking celebrity brand for the first time in three years is just one instance of this phenomenon. As per the report, millennial endorsers now constitute 63% of the total brand value of the top 15 celebrities. “In addition to Kohli, other young celebrities such as Alia Bhatt, Varun Dhawan and badminton champion PV Sindhu have either risen in the rankings or entered our top 15 list, backed by noteworthy performances in their respective fields and strong endorsement signings over the last year,” says Varun Gupta, MD and region leader – India, Japan and Southeast Asia, Duff & Phelps. Kohli is followed by Shah Rukh Khan with a brand value of $106 million, down by 20% as compared to 2016, Deepika Padukone with $93 million, Akshay Kumar with $47 million (a 97% increase on adding seven new brands to his portfolio), and Ranveer Singh with $42 million.
Interestingly, although the overall brand value of the top 15 celebrities is $712 million, dominated by Bollywood celebrities, Kohli, Dhoni and Sindhu are collectively valued at $180 million, accounting for almost a quarter of the total celebrity brand value of the top 15. India’s millennial population is experiencing high growth in disposable income levels and thus it is increasingly becoming crucial for companies to add endorsers who can influence this segment of population. As a result, a new generation of personalities and female sports persons are emerging as strong winners. Sports celebrities contributed around 25% of the total celebrity brand value in 2017. The top sectors using celebrity brand endorsers include personal care, food and beverages, automobiles, smartphones and clothing. Celebrity product brand endorsements are experiencing a strong tailwind due to the growing trend of celebrity brand extensions and co-ownerships. In 2017, the number of products endorsed by the top 15 celebrities saw a 14% growth over the last year with 234 product brands being endorsed by the top 15. Indians idolise celebrities, and when one associates with a product, consumers tend to gravitate towards it. The report goes on to add that celebrities are featured in close to 50% of the advertisements in India, compared with about 20% in the US, where celebrities don’t significantly influence consumer spending.