Munaf is a hot cake for marketing cos

Munaf is a hot cake for marketing cos

Author | Source: The Economic Times | Monday, Mar 20,2006 7:56 AM

Munaf is a hot cake for marketing cos

The frustration on Munaf Patel's face on the first session of the Test match on Sunday told one story, while concealing another. Three dropped catches and two official warnings for running on the pitch were for all to see.

But two sports marketing companies vying for the latest talent to have emerged on the Indian cricket scene was something only Patel had to deal with.

Lokesh Sharma's 21st Century Media and Inderjeet Banerjee's Gameplan are in the race to sign on the fastest bowler India has ever produced.

Sources reveal that 21st Century is clearly in the lead, with Mr Sharma holding talks with Munaf and his posse, which includes his mentor Ismail and MRF's TA Shekhar. When contacted, Mr Banerjee admitted that he was in talks with Patel, while Mr Sharma said he had “no clue about what was happening.”

With experts in the sports marketing community talking of a minimum guarantee amount of Rs 20-25 lakh for a talent like Munaf, what the package ultimately holds will depend on how far both the companies are willing to go.

While Mr Sharma's company already has talents like Irfan Pathan and RP Singh, the addition of Patel will mean all three pace bowlers fighting for two places in the Indian team.

Most sports marketing experts wonder how the conflict of interest will be managed, as most companies have a diverse bouquet of players that they can do justice to.

“Today, most sports management companies think: sign now, figure out the brand fit later,” said Anirban Blah of Globosport.

Till a week ago, Latika Khaneja of Collage Sports Management was also extremely aggressive about Patel, her home-work replete with visits to the lad's village. “Munaf is the true Iqbal story,” said Ms Khaneja.

Percept D'Mark is another company that was considering Munaf. It has recently signed talents like Sreesanth and Abid Nabi, the fast bowling sensation from J&K, and prefers to have a mix of established and upcoming stars.

“But the great thing with Munaf is that every pore on his body screams Indian,” said Rajiv Kumar, VP, marketing, PDM India.

With Patel, a cricketer has arrived who is being touted as another 'rags to riches' story, and has the ability “to make a huge difference to the rural marketing mix.”

Kiran More, chairman of Indian selectors and the owner of the Kiran More Cricket Academy - where Munaf once trained - said, “Munaf is a great talent and with consistent performances, he should go far.”

While a year ago, sports marketers were afraid to touch Munaf because of his injury issues, today, he is being seen as that 'big-ticket' cricketer who has the attitude, background, humility, passion and performance to make it big with a little bit of polishing. Well, make that a lot of polishing.

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