The heat from the cricket endorsement pitch is cooling, with rates falling between 25 and 50 per cent as advertisers shy away from new deals.
Industry sources say the only major cricketer to have signed on for a new brand in the last six months is Yuvraj Singh.
He is believed to have signed the Revital advertising deal for just Rs 1.5 crore, almost half of what he commanded a year ago.
Up-and-coming players like Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina are charging Rs 40 lakh to Rs 60 lakh but have not signed any new individual deals in the last few months.
The exceptions, of course, are Sachin Tendulkar (who charges Rs 4.5 crore ) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Rs 3.5 crore) who still command a premium and are on a par with film stars.
Sports management companies agree that cricketers are losing their attraction for advertisers. "A player is hot for a season but all it takes is two non-performing series and the negative baggage comes along. I reckon that by 2012, cricket endorsement in India will come down to 5 to 7 per cent of the total endorsements, from the current 20 to 25 per cent," says Anirban Das Blah, managing director, KWAN, a sports management company.
If cricketers are losing value in the advertising stakes, the sport is not. In fact, companies say it's the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 tournament that has turned the endorsement business upside down.
"Sponsoring an IPL team will cost you Rs 3 crore to Rs 4 crore and that means you get all the members of the team to endorse your product as part of the contract (though they have to wear the team gear and at least three of them have to be together in the advertisement). That is much cheaper than endorsing just one player," says a senior executive of a leading soft drinks manufacturer.
For instance, Idea Cellular, a co-sponsor of the Mumbai Indian team, used Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan for a mobile advertisement as part of the deal.
The rules of advertising in IPL have also made it difficult for sports management companies to get new endorsement contracts for their players. "IPL has taken away the high-reach platform. If a cricketer endorses a particular brand category (say Bharti) and it is part of a city team that in turn has signed with a competing category brand (say Vodafone), well, then the brand he is endorsing is in a fix. During the IPL matches, Bharti cannot leverage its endorsement," says Latika Khaneja, CEO of sports management company Sports Collage.
That is because the brand loses its exclusivity over the player since the team sponsor (say Vodafone) can also use him for its own advertising.
So, while Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag endorse Pepsi products, they represented Punjab and Delhi, respectively, in which Coke was the team sponsor.
Also, with cricketers playing virtually throughout the year, non-availability is becoming another issue. "A cricketer has to spare five to eight days for a brand endorsement. If he signs for 10 brands, that's 50 to 80 days. Who has the time with so many back-to-back tournaments? As a result, cricketers are quoting a high price but companies are not renewing contracts," says Sonu Lakhwani, VP, Percept Talent Management.