Having hit a purple patch in the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League, India’s numero uno batsman Virat Kohli has more to cheer about. In a latest survey published by British magazine ‘SportsPro,’ he has been named as ‘Third Most Marketable Sportsperson’ in the world ahead of football superstar Lionel Messi and world No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic. Kohli is succeeded by NBA’s Stephen Curry and Juventus’ French international Paul Pogba.
This ranking doesn’t come as a surprise with Kohli being the face of various top-notch brands. His off-and on-field personality has helped him get numerous deals, resulting his entry into the 100-crore endorsement club which includes ODI captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the legendary master blaster Sachin Tendulkar. His streak of breaking records is nothing new, the latest one being the fastest to 25 ODI hundreds. The Royal Challengers Bangalore captain is now the most trending sportsman in the country across social media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. His acts like bowing to his icon Tendulkar on achieving a batting milestone and appealing to all on social media not to troll his then girlfriend Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma has won him adulation amongst his young fans enhancing his brand value and image.
Then and now: deals in his kitty
Three years ago, realising his brand potential, Adidas roped him in after a 16-year-long association with Tendulkar. His aggression, spirited sportsmanship, super consistent performance and charisma has proved to be a winning combination for the sports brand with whom the cricketer signed perhaps Indian cricket’s most lucrative deal - a whopping 30 crore deal for three years. In the same year (2013) he inked a deal worth Rs 6.5 crore with MRF who previously had Steve Waugh and Sachin Tendulkar as their brand ambassadors and Rs 5 crore 18-month deal with Audi India. In that year alone, he scored 13 brand endorsements in his kitty including Reebok, Pepsi and Nestle India among others, maximum of which have been promoted by Master Blaster in his younger days.
There has been a marked change in the brands he has endorsed from the start of his career to now. Kohli began endorsing brands like Fair and Lovely Max Fairness, Flying Machine, Pepsi, TVS Sport and Fastrack which are youth-centric and looked at as ‘cool’ brands. Until then, his brand value stood at around Rs 2 crore per brand for a year. And now, with luxury brands in his kitty today - his Audi deal was followed by Swiss luxury watch brand Tissot - his brand associations have begun to make strategic sense.
Tapping his entrepreneurial side
Apart from the endorsements, Kohli tapped his entrepreneur side by investing Rs 90 crore to start his own chain of gyms and co-owned a team in Pro Wrestling League last year. Currently he owns six ventures with plans to launch his own fragrance line by June-end and a technology venture (acoustics including speakers and headphones). He is the first to develop a logo to sell to brands that can create a range of merchandise.
His consistent performances across all three formats did him plenty good, with his estimated endorsements rising two-fold, from Rs 2 crore in 2012 to Rs 5 crore per annum per brand now. He might be lagging close behind limited-over skipper Dhoni who was ranked 23rd by Forbes’ among the world’s highest-paid athletes in 2015 with 17 brands in his kitty and $31 million in earnings from endorsements, but Kohli dominates when it comes to the price he commands with his bat. While Dhoni receives Rs 6 crore for putting a Spartan sticker on his bat, Kohli pockets Rs 8 crore for using the MRF sticker, according to reports. Kohli signs contracts for about three days with per day charge of Rs 2 crore for his brands against Dhoni’s Rs 1.5 crore. In little or no time, Dhoni will soon be overshadowed by this fierce performer.