Even as the market is rife with speculation on who signs on the 'Master Blaster' after his five-year contract with WorldTel expired last December, there may be a twist in the tale.
Sources in the sports marketing business tell ET that Sachin Tendulkar is actively looking at managing his brand himself.
He is learned to be in talks with the top honcho of a leading global sports management company with a presence in India to manage his endorsements.
In a move, which may not be connected, Vinod Naidu of WorldTel, who was managing Tendulkar for the company, quit late last month. When contacted by ET, he was non-committal on whether he was joining Tendulkar for the venture or doing something else on his own.
Wondering why Tendulkar would even think of taking on the onerous task of selling himself, apart from getting his form back on the pitch too? “He is asking for almost Rs 30 crore per annum, and on a five-year deal that works out to Rs 150 crore.
None of us in the sports marketing business is able to deliver on his expectations and with his current form far from good, we don't even know for how many years he will be active in international cricket,” says a top executive of a leading sports marketer.
For the record, Tendulkar's five-year contract with WorldTel was worth Rs 100 crore, which is about Rs 20 crore per annum. Tendulkar is the only celebrity whose brand worth is on par with that of the Big B. WorldTel managed to get almost 10 brands - Adidas, Airtel, Boost, MRF, Pepsi, TVS, Fiat and Britannia - to ride on Brand Tendulkar.
“Sachin is clear about his own worth and with fitness issues plaguing him, he knows himself best,” says Anirban Blah, VP-marketing of Globosport, the sports management company owned by tennis star Mahesh Bhupati.
Currently, for Tendulkar it is not about negotiating for money alone; it is about post-retirement branding too. Moreover, managing his own brand, if it happens, will mean not shelling out the hefty 20per cent commission that sports marketers like World Tel and IMG charge.
“It makes sense to start his own company only if he does not get good offers, because running a company means external risks,” says Latika Khaneja, director, Collage Sports Management. Most sports personalities such as Steffi Graf, Narayan Karthikeyan and Anil Kumble have not been successful when it comes to running their own companies.
India still has to see the entire gamut of sports marketing where transfer of players is the norm, much like it happens in inter-club transfers in football and county cricket in England. Even though valuations in Indian cricket do not change with a duck or a century, the complete worth of a player is yet to be leveraged.
One of the front-runners in the race to sign on Sachin, Percept D'Mark, reckons that news of Tendulkar starting his own company could be a ploy for raising the stakes. “Talking about just endorsements is a limited vision,” says Shailendra Singh, MD Percept D'Mark.
Agreeing that a Rs 30-crore-a-year deal with Tendulkar is extremely fair, Percept plans to split Brand Tendulkar into Brand Tendulkar and Cricketer Tendulkar if it wins the mandate.
While Brand Tendulkar is everlasting and will need a constructive approach, Cricketer Tendulkar has a limited time span and needs to be attacked with aggression.
World Tel were at one point trying to leverage Brand Sachin beyond the obvious by involving him in cricketing memorabilia deals akin to Cricket Australia, where cricketing gear of famous cricketers goes up for sale.
The question that looms large is - can Tendulkar manage his performance, availability and business all by himself?