Shah Rukh Khan's audacious Rs 3.8 crore (Rs 38 million) bid for Ishant Sharma for the Kolkata team in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament has catapulted the shy and lanky pace bowler into the big league of cricket endorsements.
Before February 21, Sharma, who has been outstanding in the 13 matches he has played for India, charged Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million) to Rs 25 lakh (Rs 2.5 million) and had signed up with Pepsi and Reebok. Now half a dozen companies are queuing up for him and the asking price has doubled.
"We have been in talks with brands but it takes time to seal any deal," confirmed Latika Khaneja, director, College Sports Management, which handles his endorsements.
Khaneja said the company would have to review its strategy for Sharma considering that he had now crossed the beginner's endorsement rates.
"We will look at a few brands with high impact. Ishant is certainly good value for money as he is a budding player. We now need to decide whether he will do quantity or quality endorsements," she added.
Pepsi has also indicated that it will use Sharma in a bigger way now. An executive in the soft drinks major said the company sees tremendous value in Sharma and has already charted out a plan of action for advertising.
Some companies are keen to cash in on Sharma's brand value as quickly as possible. "He is still cheap and if he continues with the aggression in his bowling he can be transformed into a poster boy. This would require some change in his looks but I think he could become an icon and his rates will hit Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million)," said a senior executive of a telecom company.
Added ad-maker Prahlad Kakkar: "Categories that have youth appeal and reflect energy and stamina are ones that will approach him as he has a great fan following among the kids and youth."
There are others who believe that advertisers should exercise caution. "Ishant is a talented player and is potentially the best bowler. However, brands wanting to use young cricketers as sole endorsers need to be careful because these young players are sensations for a series," said Anirban Das Blah, vice-president, Globosport India.
"If their performance falls off in just four matches, people tend to bring them down. This impacts both the players and brands," he added.