On December 8, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) appointed Rohit Sharma as the new ODI captain of the Indian Men’s Cricket team. He will take over from his predecessor, Virat Kohli, starting the three-ODI series against South Africa in January 2022.
The BCCI handed over white-ball cricket's leadership mantle to Sharma, after sacking Kohli as India's ODI captain. Rohit Sharma, who is IPL team Mumbai Indians (MI) skipper had already taken over Team India's T20I captaincy after the T20 World Cup. While the threads behind BCCI’s decision unravel in the media, fans, former cricketers, watchers and brand analysts say it was bound to happen.
But will marketers replace Captain India in their advertising too?
In truth, Virat Kohli’s brand power outshines Sharma’s by a mile, currently, besides vast differences in their public personas. And that’s unlikely to change overnight like the captaincy. Kohli, as a sports personality, is perceived as aggressive, bold and occasionally brash. On the other hand, Sharma is seen as an easy-goer. In recent years, the two cricketers balanced out the team when they were in the captain and vice-captain roles, respectively. When it comes to their brand game, they are on different levels too.
According to The Duff & Phelps’ Celebrity Brand Valuation Study, Kohli was India’s most valuable celebrity with a brand value of $237.7 million. Sharma was 17th on the list. However, that number could northward for Sharma, say brand experts. According to ad executives Storyboard18 spoke to, Sharma’s endorsement fees could go up by 50-80 percent. Sharma charges Rs 80 Lakhs to Rs 1.25 crore for a day for ad shoots. Kohli’s fees are 4X higher.
Bhairav Shanth, co-founder of sports, ITW Consulting, says Sharma’s new position will give his personal brand a boost in terms of visibility. However, he believes, Sharma’s brand value may not reach the levels of Kohli and MS Dhoni.
Sharma is becoming captain towards the final third of his career. This will give him less time to capitalise on the brand opportunities during his captainship. Although Sharma doesn’t cut across demographics in terms of appeal as Kohli or Dhoni, his persona will appeal to newer brands.
“Brands which aspire to be a leader in their category will look to partner him (Sharma). Even existing brand leaders will want to have Sharma on board to reiterate their position,” says Ramakrishnan R, co-founder and director of Baseline Ventures.
The new captain has brands like Adidas, Infinity Learn, TAG, Oakley, Glenmark Pharma, IIFL Finance, Vega, Dr. Trust, CEAT, and a few others, in his kitty. Kohli’s list includes Puma, Audi, MRF, MPL, Phillips, Myntra, Tissot, Too Yumm, Great Learning, and more. Dhoni has Cars24, Colgate, Bharat Matrimony, Indigo Paints, Mastercard India, TVS Motor among a bunch of other brands.
Shanth thinks if brands have been wanting to associate with Sharma, now is the right time. “The opportunity lies in the fact that he will lead the Indian men’s cricket team in the next two ICC events - the T20 World Cup next year and the Cricket World Cup in 2023. They can capitalise on that anticipation and momentum if they are able to lock him in for a couple of years.” Sharma’s consistent performance as Mumbai Indians’ captain is an added advantage for him.
Over the years, Kohli and Dhoni have spent enough time creating their brand image. Sharma, on the other hand, has put a lot of pressure on his brand of game. In Dhoni’s case, he still continues to maintain significant brand value even after his retirement from international cricket. The question is will Kohli continue to charm brands like Dhoni, and will Sharma steal Kohli’s brand thunder?
(Edited by : Ajay Vaishnav)
First Published: IST