Yash Bhatia

T20WC: Will India's MVP bowlers get same brand love as batters?

Experts discuss the reasons why batsmen dominate in brand endorsements, despite notable achievements by bowlers.

On June 29, 2024, Indian cricket team captain Rohit Sharma lifted the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 trophy, marking an indelible moment for Indian cricket and fans worldwide. The triumph was significantly driven by outstanding performances from bowlers Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav, and Axar Patel making them the most valuable player (MVP).

However, when it comes to brand endorsements, batsmen continue to be the preferred choice for brands. According to Kroll’s Celebrity Brand Valuation Report 2023, Virat Kohli topped the list with an approximate brand value of Rs 1,860 crore. In the top 25 celebrity brand rankings for 2023, MS Dhoni ranked at number 7, Sachin Tendulkar at 8, Rohit Sharma at 18, and Hardik Pandya at 19.

It is noteworthy that all these athletes, except for the all-rounder Pandya, are predominantly known for their batting prowess.

Aviral Jain, managing director at Kroll (a financial services firm), says, "When we compile our report, it is assessed based on their brand endorsement portfolio, its evolution over the years, their personality, fan following, and social media presence. Jasprit Bumrah is the bowler who can be positioned among the top 30.”

According to a source who shared this data on the condition of anonymity, deals between brands and cricketers are typically structured for one year and one day. In such cases, the talent dedicates one day to the brand for shoots or meet-and-greets. The brand can use these images or marketing collateral for one year. 

Virat Kohli charges around Rs 7-8 crore plus taxes, while Rohit Sharma charges around Rs 3.5-4 crore plus taxes. In comparison, Jasprit Bumrah charges around Rs 1.5-2 crore plus taxes for a brand deal.

In 2021, Jasprit Bumrah had single-digit brand endorsements. However, by 2022-23, this number significantly increased to 14-15 endorsements due to his performance. 

Meanwhile, Kohli is associated with over 45 brands this year, up from 37-38 brands last year. Rohit Sharma has partnered with 25-30 brands over the past couple of years, and Hardik Pandya is associated with 20 brands.

Brand deals and endorsements: A comparative analysis
Brand deals and endorsements: A comparative analysis

According to Gunjan Nagpal, former chief business officer of Rhiti Sports (a sports marketing agency), currently at Fashion entrepreneur fund says batsmen are the preferred choice for brands because they enjoy more visibility during a cricket match. Their extended time on the field means every move from stance to shots is watched by millions, resulting in higher recall value for advertisers.

In cricket, batsmen have traditionally been the face of the sport, dominating brand endorsements. Despite the remarkable contributions of bowlers such as Zaheer Khan, Anil Kumble, and Irfan Pathan, it is usually batting legends like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, and Yuvraj Singh who attract more lucrative endorsement deals even now.

Tuhin Mishra, co-founder at Baseline Ventures (a sports, events, entertainment, and licensing firm), quotes Kapil Dev and says, “In India, batsmen have been considered the officer class while bowlers are seen as the worker class.”

Monika Daga, business head at ITW Influence (a sports agency), says, “Batters receive more media coverage, especially in highlight reels and sports news, amplifying their marketability. Many iconic cricket captains have been batsmen, enhancing their image of leadership and authority, traits brands seek in endorsers.”

Nagpal also adds that cricket portrayal has primarily focused on the achievements of batsmen. Movies like Lagaan and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story celebrated batsmen’s heroics, often sidelining the stories of bowlers.

“To foster a more balanced representation, the film industry needs to create more movies that highlight the hard work, achievements, and success of bowlers,” he adds. 

What do brands seek?

Do brands only seek the performance of athletes, or is there more to it? 

In the 2023 edition of the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup, due to Mohammed Shami's stellar performance, his endorsement fees doubled to approximately Rs 1 crore per deal, according to Business Standard.

Nikhil Bardia, head of RISE WorldWide, a sports agency that also manages Jasprit Bumrah, says that brands select athletes based on factors like performance, age, social media impact, and relevance. Synergies between the brand and the player are high on the priority list.

“With social media, fans can now witness more moments of the game, which only adds longevity to brand associations. Media and social media play a key role as they serve as third-party validation for the engagement that players can garner from brands,” he adds.

Daga mentions that the athlete's relevance within a specific cultural or market context is also important. For example, a brand targeting young, urban consumers might choose Hardik Pandya, while one targeting health-conscious consumers might select Virat Kohli.

She also notes that media coverage enhances their appeal to sponsors. “International media coverage extends a cricketer’s reach beyond their home country, making them attractive to global brands,” she adds.

Mishra advises bowlers to have a good agency to manage them so they can be effectively marketed to the right sponsors.

Going ahead

Due to the stellar performance of bowlers in this edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, could we see a change in bowlers becoming the preferred choice for brands' endorsements?

Daga suggests that she anticipates a potential shift in brand endorsement trends favouring bowlers in the near future. The narratives around bowlers often involve hard work, perseverance, and underdog success stories, which can become compelling for brands aiming to create emotional connections with consumers.

Additionally, she adds that bowlers, traditionally not as highly sought after as top batsmen, might offer more cost-effective endorsement deals. This economic factor could drive brands to consider talented bowlers who provide high value at a relatively lower cost.

Mishra says, “It's highly unlikely that the trends will change unless there is genuine appreciation for bowlers, and also the sports agencies marketing these bowlers themselves believe in it.”

Jain suggests that this shift could happen in a couple of years. It will take time as brand value is not just about one-year performance but about sustaining a significant number of brand endorsements that the athlete can command.

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