Indian cricket has not seen anyone quite like Virat Kohli. The boisterous cricketer who revels in the fall of the opposition capitulating is a trait not easily associated with an Indian captain. Yes, there was a certain Sourav Ganguly but even his hardcore loyalists will concede that Kohli redefines aggression in ways more than one.
His success both as batsman and skipper has endeared him to the world of advertising and social media. The irony is that the man has a completely different personality there. Give him the Indian cricket attire and the transformation is quite incredible. As Kohli announces his decision to step down as captain from the T20 format post next month's world cup in Dubai, it will be a big moment in every sense.
The logical question to ask is what does that mean for Brand Kohli? After all, he is the most expensive name in cricket today - a sport which is the biggest in India be it in terms of crowds in the stadium, viewership on any screen or just the billions of dollars that go into broadcasting rights. None of that includes the cost of Kohli endorsing brands such as MRF, Myntra, American Tourister, Puma, Volini, Audi, Uber India, Royal Challenge to name just a few.
The money one speaks of is not exactly loose change and has steadily increased each year. One post put out by Kohli on Instagram will cost a brand around Rs 1.25 crore, a number that was Rs 80 lakh a couple of years ago. The endorsement fee for any of the said brands is Rs 7 crore each year and estimated to have been Rs 5 crore earlier. To draw a comparison, Rohit Sharma's fee is around Rs 3 crore, while the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and KL Rahul is in the Rs 1-1.25 crore range.
Independent sports consultant Ritesh Nath maintains that Kohli's decision will have no impact on his marketability or just the interest from brands. "It all comes down to performance and once he runs into top form, everything will be forgotten," he explains. Nath cites the example of Sachin Tendulkar whose career only got better after relinquishing captaincy. "Kohli will be on the pitch and for a good cricketer like him, eyeballs will always be assured."
According to Salil Vaidya, Founder, Korero Consulting & Communications, a digital first brand communications specialist, Kohli has been smart in calling it day from the T20 format. "It will help in managing his career over the long-term. Captaincy comes with its own set of demands, both on and off the field, and this decision allows him to focus more on his capabilities as a batsman," he thinks.
Besides, that is what the cricket lover relates to most easily rather than him as captain. "The unburdening of the responsibility of captaincy can impact his performance positively," points out Vaidya.
Just from a brand point of view, it all comes down to how much sense it makes. "Brands seek individuals with a strong personality streak. It is the association that helps them add that aspect to their own brand in addition to the visibility that comes. Again, in T20, a more visible format, an unshackled Virat as a batsman and a player could be a bigger draw for a lot more brands." By the looks of it, nothing seems to be stopping this brand. Not immediately at least.
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