Cricket's poor cousins
October 2, 2008Olympic medals don't impress advertisers.
You would have thought Abhinav Bindra, he with the flashy Olympic gold medal, would have advertisers worshipping the very ground that he treads on. But you'd be wrong. He has signed no new deals since the Beijing Olympics, though his agent, Bonny Duggal, claims there are several offers. The dashingly handsome pugilist Vijender Kumar is somewhat better off on this front.he has managed to bag an endorsement deal with Bajaj Allianz General Insurance. "An Olympic medal doesn't have a shelf life beyond a year; so, unless your sport is constantly visible on the electronic media, or you find some way to remain in the news not just for your sporting exploits but also for your off-field activities, it's difficult to sustain the euphoria only on a medal," says Anirban Blah, CEO, Globosport, a sports management company.
Can these new-age sports stars, then, hope to match the aura of India's cricketers? Probably not. "Even newcomers like Ishant Sharma may earn more than them," feels Harish Bijoor, Managing Director, Harish Bijoor Consults, an independent brand consultancy firm. Also, he feels, individual sports may not harvest the same passion as team sports.this despite the fact that badminton's Saina Nehwal has a higher potential brand value than football's Bhaichung Bhutia. "But then, our standing in football at a global level is nothing to be proud of," he elaborates. Interestingly though, Nehwal's current three-year contract with Aspire India, a manpower solutions company, is worth Rs 8 lakh while another, with a cervical cancer awareness organisation, is worth Rs 3.58 lakh.
Latika Khaneja, Director, Collage Sports, another sports management firm, adds: "Since the Olympics is a once-in-four-years event, you have to cash in on the moment and this where I feel both Bindra and Rajyavardhan Rathore have lost out." She points out that Bindra's handicap is that he lacks sex appeal, unlike, say, Sania Mirza, who despite plummeting to #92 in the ATP rankings from the late-20s, has managed to retain her popularity on the endorsement circuit. "Sania seems to have modelled herself on Anna Kournikova.so, despite the lack of any Grand Slam titles, there's no dent in her brand value," she adds. Of course, as Bijoor points out, the controversies she gets embroiled in also help.
Even Rajyavardhan Rathore, the 2004 Athens Double Trap Shooting silver medallist, admits that the euphoria over winning a medal doesn't last too long. "One of the issues with me was that as a serving Army officer, I had to take approval from the authorities (which took a year in coming); so, advertisers who wanted to sign me immediately after I returned from Athens lost interest," he recalls, though he has Hero Honda and Coca-Cola in his kitty.