As Sachin Tendulkar fell to his knees trying in vain to keep out a ball that went on to hit the timber, several questions arose about his future as brand ambassador.
While these remain just questions, there is a legion of Tendulkar fans out there balking at any suggestion that his brand value will ever diminish — the batsman who once struck fear in the hearts of bowlers around the world is invoking sympathy.
Equus Red Cell Advertising CEO Suhel Seth says Sachin the brand is today a “bit tired with no energy and excitement”.
In his last 20 One-Day Internationals, Tendulkar has scored a total of 568 runs. Sourav Ganguly has scored 514 runs in his last 20 one-dayers.
When it comes to renewing Tendulkar’s contracts, companies like Bharti hedge. “We will evaluate the equity and franchise and look at what other options are more relevant at that time,” says Hemant Sachdev, group chief marketing officer and director of Airtel.
Tendulkar’s bad form could not have come at a worse time. Not only did the team lose the Test series in Pakistan, Tendulkar went on tour without an agent. His Rs 100-crore contract with WorldTel expired on December 31, 2005, and so far it has not been renewed.
Santosh Desai, president, McCann Erickson, says Sachin is currently in a “fading hero” mould. “The fans are starting to face the reality that Sachin is not ageless and timeless,” he said.
Obviously, says Desai, this will affect Sachin the brand. “Already, his style of play from a strong attacker smacking all bowlers to the boundary has changed to a more subdued one. That was the first sign of Sachin’s mortality,” says Desai.
A Percept D’Mark insider claims the company is in talks with the cricketing icon and is most likely to sign him up.
“Sachin’s price is not as good as the old times, like after the 2003 World Cup,” says Shailendra Singh, managing director of Percept. He adds that though Tendulkar is a living legend with extraordinary brand value, the market today is divided with the rise of younger generation heroes like Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Irfan Pathan.
“A person who goes on to win the great laughter challenge today is a brand,” says Seth.
In 2005, Tendulkar’s three-year-old contract with ESPN-Star Sports came to an end, and it has not been renewed. Ravi Venkateish, managing director, ESPN-Star, says this is due to a change in the company’s marketing strategy. “We are now more property-focused, for example like with the English Premier League,” says Venkateish.
However, TVS, which first signed up Sachin in 2002, renewed its contract in February 2005. R Chandramauli, senior vice-president of TVS, says Tendulkar has grown beyond the game. “He is an icon, a living legend and surpassed the one-innings phenomenon,” he says.
However, as Desai points out, Tendulkar has not signed any new deal lately.