Endorsement rates for cricketers have fallen up to 15% in 9 months.
Every candid cricket fan will admit to having grudged cricketers their endorsement millions every time they, individually or collectively, performed badly.
Now, after a string of dismal performances by the Indian team in the last 12 months—especially in the one-dayers—the curses seem to be working.
Finally, cricketers are being relegated to the rank of other mortal professionals whose performances affect their remuneration. Shailendra Singh, managing director of Percept D’Mark, which manages a bevy of celebrities, including cricketers and actors, says endorsement rates for cricketers have fallen up to 15 per cent in the last nine months.
An executive of an FMCG company says it has taken some of its commercials featuring dashing opener Virender Sehwag, going through a bad patch, off air during the recent three-nation tournament in Sri Lanka.
Latika Khaneja of Collage Sports, which manages Sehwag, would not comment on the specifics, but concedes, “People are not sure they want to attach themselves to cricketers. It’s nothing like the time around World Cup 2003, when you could get anyone a contract.”
It hasn’t helped cricketers’ commercial cause that alternatives have begun to emerge. There is Sania Mirza, ranked in the world’s top 50 and triggering a proliferation of nose rings and nerdy specs among teeny-boppers.
But what is really taking the advertising lucre away from cricket is its old rival for mass adulation, Hindi movies. Bollywood is reaping a rich crop of hits this year.
“This is Hindi films’ equivalent of a World Cup winning year. We haven’t had so many hits in the last 20 years,” says Singh.
Not surprisingly, Dabur, which already has Sehwag in its pavilion, has signed on Vivek Oberoi for its oral care range. John Abraham is adorning billboards advertising Yamaha bikes and Samsung phones. Zayed Khan has become LG India’s brand ambassador. It is a matter of time before Abhishek Bachchan, whose recent success has catapulted him to news magazine covers, begins to match his father contract for contract.
“We are looking at Formula 1, golf and movies even as our association with cricket continues,” says LG India’s head of marketing Salil Kapoor. LG has “in-film” promotions slated to appear in three soon-to-be-released movies.
Cricket, on the other hand, has its brightest stars on their last legs. And the new crop has done little to prove that it can step into the spikes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly -- all three of them classics as brand ambassadors, untouched by the demand-supply situation.
Mohammed Kaif, Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan may soon earn the tag of the longest-in-the-making stars; none is sure of a Test berth after half-a-decade of cricket behind them. Irfan’s meteoric rise looks like a doddering walk when compared with the speed of his decline into uncertainty.
Sehwag, despite the recent bad patch, is the only young star an advertiser can look to tie up with for three to five years.
Samsung, which has its own Team Samsung of cricketers, remains sanguine. “It doesn’t matter. They can perform well next time,” says Deputy Managing Director Ravinder Zutshi.
If they don’t, we’ll curse some more.