Ace shooter Abhinav Bindra created history on Monday morning when he hit the bull's eye more frequently than his Chinese and Finnish rivals and won India its first individual Olympic gold medal.
The whole country broke into an impromptu celebration and by the evening, four state governments had announced cash rewards that added up to Rs 1.4 crore. Cash-rich BCCI also announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh for Bindra and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad issued him a lifetime AC first-class travel pass. Not to be left behind, budget carrier SpiceJet gave him free unlimited travel for life.
And in corporate offices across the country, the advertising and marketing fraternity started thinking of how to fit Bindra, who turns 25 next month, into their campaigns. Stuck for long with cricketers and film stars for brand endorsements, there is a glimmer of hope for them to break the clutter.
Bindra has so far been associated with only Samsung and the Lucknow-based Sahara Group. More companies are certain to sign him up now. "We are proud of his win and the fact that he is one of the six Samsung Olympic Ratnas (jewels). We will try and leverage this association," said Samsung India Joint Managing Director Ravinder Zutshi.
"Bindra's gold will create a movement of sorts in the country and change the mindset of people towards other sports, something that was needed in a country which does have an appetite for sports other than cricket," added Percept Holdings Joint Managing Director Shailendra Singh. His firm has done business with top Indian cricketers.
The buzz was unmistakable, though several large advertisers like Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Hero Honda said it was still too early to spell out firm plans. All sounded super-charged, except Latika Khaneja of Collage Sports Management, Bindra's manager since 2003.
She thinks Bindra can become the new poster boy for advertisers only if he is keen to join the endorsement bandwagon. "It is for him to decide if he wants to get out and surge into the advertising game. We have always believed in his potential and will continue to do so," she said.
Endorsement money may not be a big draw for Bindra, after all. His father, Apjit Singh Bindra, is the promoter of the Chandigarh-based Rs 300-crore Hitech Group which has interests in agro- and meat-processing, computer gaming, livestock genetics and pharmaceuticals. He also has plans to put up a hospitality venture in Uttaranchal.
Bindra himself recently floated Abhinav Futuristics, which is the sole agent of German-made Walther weapons in India.
The company plans to open offices in Delhi, Bangalore, Bhopal, Kolkata and Chennai and hopes to hit a turnover of Rs 100 crore by the year 2010.