MUMBAI: Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from one-day cricket will set the stage for a new phase in the life cycle of one of India’s most iconic celebrity brands. As his form has dipped in the past few months, many big brands and consumer goods companies have dropped Sachin or significantly reduced the number of his television advertisement spots from their media plans.
Coca-Cola, for instance, does not use the legendary cricketer – who in his prime humbled bowlers of the calibre of Wasim Akram, Glen McGrath, Shane Warne and Brett Lee – as its youth icon, but only as a happiness ambassador. Other big brands such as ITCBSE, Adidas and Aviva also took his ads off air, even as Canon and Jyothi Labs did not renew their contracts, clearly echoing the views of cricket commentators who have said it was perhaps time for Sachin to hang up his gloves, a report in Economic Times said.
This paper has argued – and Sachin has rubbished – that many of his advertising and brand endorsement deals are tied to his form, and for the number of years he stays at the crease. Tendulkar, who made his debut for India in 1989, has been the country’s highest-paid sportsman for the past two decades. At present, Tendulkar is the face for about 17 brands and earns between Rs 5 crore and Rs 8 crore per brand annually. Many of his endorsement contracts are set to expire between now and 2014.
Marketing experts and celebrity agents say Tendulkar’s retirement from the shorter form of the game is likely to dilute his image as a youth icon and discourage companies to employ him as their brand ambassador. But he might continue to be an attractive proposition for more mature categories such as banking and financial services.
“Sachin will need to reposition himself in the brands space. He can’t be the cool youth icon which may be the requirement for a lot of brands he’s involved with. Going forward, more mature categories such as banking or insurance would want to be associated with him,” said Shailendra Singh, joint MD of talent management and marketing firm Percept.
Banking major RBS confirmed to Economic Times that its brand deal with Sachin at the moment is unlikely to undergo any change. According to Future Brands CEO Santosh Desai, the nature of Tendulkar’s appeal will change. “As Sachin moves from being a hero now to more like a mentor once he retires, he will certainly attract more corporate brands rather than trendy and hip ones. He will stand for perseverance and experience,” said Desai.
To a certain extent, that process has already begun with companies such as Coca-Cola. “Sachin is involved in campaigns that spread happiness or bring about social change, and continues to feature in promotions and activities around the campaign,” said a spokesperson for the soft drinks company.
Camera maker Canon, which had inked an endorsement deal with Tendulkar in 2007, has decided not to renew the contract when it ends this month, citing a “change of strategy and youth focus”. Consumer goods maker Jyothy Laboratories, too, did not renew its contract with Tendulkar a couple of months ago. A spokesperson for insurance firm Aviva said while its contract is not up for renewal, it will evaluate the contract details “closer to renewal”. While Tendulkar will continue to play Test cricket, if his poor run continues, it is possible that he may hang up his boots altogether after the series against Australia next year.
For a cricketing genius who has hogged headlines for over two decades and at times has been considered a legend on a par with Don Bradman, walking off the field will not mean the end of the brand endorsement road. Ironically, some companies feel his brand value may get a boost after retirement. “Sachin’s brand value might actually go up as people start missing him on field. But it all depends on what he does outside his cricketing career in terms of business or supporting social causes,” said an ITCBSE Foods official. Tendulkar signed up with ITC Foods in 2006 and the contract will expire next year.
Several leading Indian cricketers who have retired in the past few years have seen their endorsements shrink dramatically as companies switched to younger and more promising players such as Virat Kohli. But experts say Tendulkar could be an exception. “Unlike many of his predecessors, who weren’t signed by brands for ads after retirement, Sachin is in a different league and brands would still want to be associated with him. Besides, his endorsements have been chosen very well. Many are mature, global brands which would like to continue with him,” Sangeet Shirodkar, director, Off-Spin Sports and Entertainment told ET.