Sania Mirza may have been knocked out of the US Open but who cares? Her value in the dog-eat-dog world of marketing is going up every minute.
It is believed that she has become the second highest paid sporting personality in the country, at par with Dravid and next only to Sachin. Sources in the know say her “endorsement fee at around Rs 1.5 crore” has appreciated 30 times in less than a year. She started off with Rs 5 lakh last November.
However, rival sports managers are taking the dizzying signing amount figure with a pinch of salt. “Without taking away from her achievement, it's difficult to believe that any company would be willing to pay that kind of money,” says the chief of a sports management firm. She could, at best, be in the same league as Yuvraj Singh and Sehwag.
These arguments don't deter Sania's managers. In fact, some say, the joke doing the rounds is that a brand manager's bonus is largely dependent on how fast he meets his target of getting Sania to sign on the dotted line for brand endorsement.
Not surprisingly, they are all waiting in the queue. For now, Sania's managers are negotiating with a car maker (sources say, it's Hyundai) and a beverage company for a branding deal. She already has six such contracts, prominent ones being Lotto and Hindustan Petroleum.
Says Anirban Das, the chief of Globosport, the company which manages Sania's endorsements, “She was pitched against the world's No 2. As such, nobody expected her to win. It was Sharapova who had more at stake, not Sania. The fact that she faced such a champion for 59 minutes was enough to set her soaring.”
“It is refreshing to see a woman making waves in a game where India has no chance. But at some stage, you've got to win. Unless you win, your career gets shortened. People argue that cricketers are highly paid, but that's because they also win,” says Subhinder Singh Prem, MD, Reebok India.
There's, of course, a debate raging in the marketing world on how Sania should be positioned. Her potential paymasters are convinced that she has a mass appeal which should be leveraged.
“Sania appeals to the average Indian. Many have turned to watching tennis inspired by her achievements. She not only symbolises a new Indian woman who's a go-getter, but has also become a role model for youngsters across the country,” says a marketing head of a company that is targeting Sania.