Shreyas Kulkarni

India’s young cricketers see their brand value soar post-Oz series win…

… Especially Rishabh Pant and Shubman Gill, who may end up becoming brand favourites.

In retrospect, January 19, 2021 will be known as the day Indian cricket’s next generation proved themselves as Goliath slayers.

There’s Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Prithvi Shaw and Mohammed Siraj. But it was the swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant and the steely opening batsman Shubman Gill, who stood out. The duo’s scores of 91 and 89 respectively in the second innings of the fourth Test led India to, perhaps, its most famous Test victory of all time. The Indian team successfully chased Australia’s score of 328.

To defeat Australia at the Gabba (Brisbane cricket ground) had started to look near impossible because the home team hadn’t lost a Test match at the ground since 1988. History, however, was rewritten.

Pant and Gill, who’ve been in the public eye for a few years now, might as well begin to see their lives pre and post-January 19. Fans love them, the cricketing world applauds them, and brands are now eyeing them.

Just a day after the win, JSW Sports, the sports arm of JSW Group, announced that it had signed Pant, and will exclusively manage all his commercial and marketing rights. The group also owns the Delhi Capitals Indian Premier League (IPL) team. Pant is a wicketkeeper-batsman in the team and endorses SG, Adidas, and boAt.

Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Enterprises, tweeted that Gill deserves the CEAT bat again. The tyre company had signed him for a bat endorsment deal in 2018. He then choose to go with Yuvraj Singh's brand after a while. But the sponsorship ran out before his final innings. So, Gill had to remove the sticker from his bat. You can see this in the video and image below.

The win Down Under has increased the brand value of Pant and Gill, and brought focus on Siraj, Thakur, Sundar, Shaw and others. Media reports state Pant and Gill charge somewhere between Rs. 10 to Rs. 30 lakh for ads. But how long will this spotlight last? Until the upcoming home series against England that starts on February 5, or the 2021 IPL?

Tuhin Mishra
Tuhin Mishra

“A brand is created over consistent performances… there are multiple examples of cricketers and other athletes who saw a surge, but then faded away,” says Tuhin Mishra, managing director and co-founder, Baseline Ventures, a sports management firm that manages the likes Shaw, badminton player P.V. Sindhu and (female) cricketer Smriti Mandhana.

Mishra gave the examples of cricketer Virat Kohli and Sindhu who, through their consistent performances, have become the brands they are right now.

We (afaqs!) wondered which brands would show interest in these players. Will a big brand, which may have signed Kohli or MS Dhoni, be interested in youngsters?

As per Mishra, it would depend on a brand’s marketing objectives. If it wants to cash in on the recent successes, it might just look at one or two players. If the brand has plans to build for the future, it will look at younger players and how it can associate with them for a while.

A former sports marketing professional, who didn’t want to be named, adds, “If I was their manager, I would look at 50-60 per cent increase…” When we asked him about the rise in these players’ asking rates, he said, “They should at least should command a 30 per cent hike.” He went on to say that the series win over Australia is being compared to the 1983 and 2011 World Cup wins…

The next generation of cricketing stars, like Hardik Pandya, Shreyas Iyer, Pant and Gill, will become superstars if they perform consistently, said the former sports marketer. This works from a brand’s point of view as the likes of Kohli and Rohit Sharma are in their 30s, and may not have as many years left as the youngsters.

Also, if a brand has Kohli or Dhoni or Sharma, it doesn’t need to supplement either of them with Pant or Gill. However, if a brand wants to be in cricket for the next 5-7 years, it may ask, “Why don’t we take a calculated risk with Pant or Gill at one-tenth the price of Kohli, and tie him down to a 3-5 year contract?” Once they get bigger, the brand doesn’t have to spend crores and also, it has already got a brilliant return on investment (ROI.)

Sandeep Goyal
Sandeep Goyal

However, Sandeep Goyal, chairman of advertising and communication agency Mogae Media, has a contrasting point of view. He says that some of this euphoria is premature, and Pant and Gill will be in ads, but there won’t be a stampede.

“They might appear in irreverent roles for young aspirational brands outside the stuff Kohli or Dhoni does. I don’t expect to see them in 20 ads.”

During our conversation, the topic of Hindustan Unilever’s malt beverage Boost came up. Kohli endorses it and we wonder if Boost will look at Pant or Gill now.

Just because Boost has Kohli right now, it doesn’t mean Pant won’t appear for the beverage. Brands will take time to transition to a new celebrity and even older brands want to look younger, says Goyal.

He recounted the history of Boost and its endorsers. Kapil Dev used to endorse Boost, but then came Sachin Tendulkar. So, an intermediary communication was created around hero worship… A young Tendulkar (played by a child actor) would watch Dev from the stands, and it took six months to a year before he became/turned into (actual) Tendulkar.

A fleeting spike in brand value or or not, Pant and Gill are part of the team that will face England at home starting from 5 February 2021. It's an important series because people and brands will be hoping to see the duo repeat their heroics from Down Under at home as well.

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