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Will Virat Kohli play a larger role in PepsiCo's endorsement pie after Dhoni's exit?

Will Virat Kohli play a larger role in PepsiCo's endorsement pie after Dhoni's exit?

Author | Sarmistha Neogy | Tuesday, Aug 30,2016 8:07 AM

Will Virat Kohli play a larger role in PepsiCo's endorsement pie after Dhoni's exit?

PepsiCo has recently announced that it will be ending its 11-year endorsement deal with India's One-day and Twenty20 Cricket Captain MS Dhoni. Virat Kohli, Ranbir Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra are already among the popular names endorsing PepsiCo brands at the moment.

Commenting on Dhoni’s exit, Vipul Prakash, Vice President, Beverage Category, PepsiCo India said,“Over the course of the past year, the focus of our advertising and marketing campaigns has been around celebrating our products and making them the hero. Within that frame, the idea will always play the most important role. While we place the brand at the centre, if there is a role for the celebrity that helps take forward the idea of celebrating our product; we are more than happy to taking it further. Our campaigns this year reflect this very approach of keeping the product at the centre of our campaigns and thus we have had campaigns both with and without celebrities. We are indeed privileged to be associated with immensely talented ambassadors and have had a long and cherished association with M S Dhoni and we immensely value his contribution.”

Contrary to media reports doing the rounds that Virat Kohli will be the new icon for Pepsi, it is to be mentioned that he has been associated with the brand for the last few years and is already a prominent face in their advertising campaigns. However, with the exit of Dhoni from the brand, it is expected that the role of Kohli in the brand’s endorsement pie is likely to get larger.

Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman and Managing Director, Samsika Consulting said, “It has been a strategy which PepsiCo has been following since the last two to three decades. They have always got in iconic brand ambassadors like Sachin Tendulkar or Amitabh Bachchan, have used them for a considerable span of time and then replaced them with the next generation youth icon. Same is the case with Dhoni, but it is no reflection of the ambassador’s or the brand’s abilities. Their credibility doesn’t get diminished.”

He further added, “Every brand has a strategy and this is the way Pepsi works, they have always used a celebrity and younger person to connect well with the ethos of the brand. Dhoni has certain qualities like his aggression, leadership, winning streak and resilience, which as a brand value will always be appreciated. Yes, Kohli will now be played up more by the brand.”

In the past, the brand has used several iconic Bollywood faces like Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Amitabh Bachchan and even cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar.

Eclipse of Dhoni

In April 2014, MS Dhoni decided to take himself off playing test cricket in India, pointing to "the strain of playing all formats". At that point of time, he had 18 brands in his kitty as against 10 today. Also on top of it, over the past 18 months, his association with Sony, Dabur, Amrapali and now, Pepsi have come to an end. 

In April this year, MS Dhoni was forced to quit as the brand ambassador of Amrapali group, after people started protesting on Twitter regarding the delay in completion of its housing project. He was associated with the brand for almost six years, but after the #Amrapalimisusedhoni hashtag went viral, it forced the cricketer to quit being the brand ambassador of the group which has not been able to deliver.

As per the 2015 Forbes list, Dhoni was ranked 23rd among the world’s best paid athletes with 17 brands in his kitty and $31 million in earnings from endorsements.He is currently gearing up for the release of his biopic and according to reports; he has demanded Rs 80 crore from the producers.

Rise of Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli is at the helm of his career and is surely enjoying a lot of attention from brands for endorsements. In a survey published by British magazine ‘SportsPro,’ in May this year, he was named as the ‘Third Most Marketable Sportsperson’ in the world ahead of football superstar Lionel Messi and world No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic. He currently endorses around 15 brands.

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.

Three years ago, Adidas, roped Kohli as the face of the brand after a 16-year-old association with Tendulkar. The deal was worth Rs 30 crore for three years and was supposed to be one of the most expensive deals signed by any Indian cricketer. His second big step was a Rs 6.5 crore-per- year a deal with MRF.

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 are 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.

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 among his young fans enhancing his brand value and image.

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.

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