Mirabai Chanu is a name that most Indians may not have heard of 10 days ago. That has quietly changed with the lady from Manipur clinching the silver medal in the women's 49 kg weightlifting category at the Tokyo Olympics. Meanwhile, PV Sindhu, our badminton ace, won the bronze. Joining them is Lovlina Borgohain in the boxing event.
Understandably, all this has led to some level of interest in India. After all, the Olympics is the biggest sporting event and nothing quite comes close to a victory there. What it means to the winning athletes back home by way of endorsements is also important. With so much money - many would say a disproportionate sum - being taken away by cricket, how much a brand or a company is willing to back another sport is a moot point.
Manish Porwal, MD, Alchemist Marketing Solutions, cites the cases of Abhinav Bindra and Mary Kom, who won medals earlier, to drive home the point that endorsements did come their way but not of any great significance. "The Olympics is not a spectator event and that makes it difficult to instantly recognise a name or face," he explains. However, there is a big story, to his mind, in influencer marketing, where the athlete posts something on social media and gets paid for it. Typically, it will be a case of a brand being endorsed through a contractual agreement.
A more established name like Sindhu is the face of brands such as Bank of Baroda, Visa India and Google, for which her fee is typically upwards of Rs 1.5 crore each year. The challenge is for the first-time winners and more so in a sport where there is not a huge level of interest. This is where social media becomes a lucrative option.
Industry trackers say brands pay anywhere between Rs 10-15 lakh for one post on Instagram. This amount is determined by the number of followers and then compared to what is paid to another celebrity, say from Bollywood. "A new face will have limited market value for an endorsement and that is where social media really helps," says Ritesh Nath, CEO, EPWA, a players welfare association for athletes. Just to mention, the biggest names in Bollywood are paid around Rs 75 lakh for one post. In a cricket-crazy nation like ours, where our men in blue hog the limelight, it is social media that comes to the help of other less prominent sports.
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