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Off the field, Tendulkar on shaky ground

September 16, 2006 04:37 IST

Sachin Tendulkar may have just scored his 40th century in one day cricket but his score on the brand endorsement scene may not have as much sparkle.

Advertising agency executives feel Tendulkar's reign over television commercials might not last as long as his cricket prowess.

In the last three years, Sachin has added just one more in India -- writing instruments brand Reynolds. Before that, the last major deal was with cellular services provider Airtel.

And the track record of companies coming back to renew contracts with Tendulkar is not looking good either. Credit card company Visa, consumer durables brand Philips and automobile major Fiat are cases in point.

Advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi's talent management wing, Iconix, which signed a six-year deal for an estimated Rs 180 crore recently, insists Brand Sachin can pull it off.

Harish Krishnamachar, managing director, Iconix, said in the last six months since Iconix started managing Sachin's off-the-field business, he had signed three new deals -- GM Pens, the maker of Reynolds, a book and an animation deal. The book contract is for The Opus, a series on sporting legends.

In the past, The Opus has featured Manchester United and Mohammed Ali. The animation deal is with UK-based Total MultiMedia and comprises a couple of animated games and an animation series.

But according to industry experts, Tendulkar faces an uphill task to attract endorsements.

"In a celebrity endorsement deal, a celebrity has to meet three criteria: the brand fit, the brand budget and brand conflict," said Reshma Shetty, managing director, Matrix Entertainment, a celebrity management firm.

While the brand fit may be relatively easy, Tendulkar gets into trouble with the other two. Having endorsed products across categories -- from tyres, beverages, mobile service providers, consumer durables and credit card companies to automobiles -- he may find it difficult to find another client in these industries.

"Even if any of these contracts expires, a competitor will not be in a hurry to sign him on as the earlier association is still strong," say industry experts.

And if there is a category which has not seen Tendulkar on board, it may be difficult to find a taker for the estimated Rs 5 crore a year that Tendulkar reportedly commands. At a million-dollar bill, Sachin is not exactly affordable. "It is not a reflection of brand image but a brand budget," said Shetty.

Then there is the much-debated issue of the master's retirement. Anirban Blah, vice-president, Globosport, a sports and celebrity management firm, said, "Across the world, very few sports celebrities transcend their value beyond their careers."

Exceptions like Michael Jordan, Pele or boxing legend Muhammed Ali are few. Even with cricket icons like Kapil Dev or Ravi Shastri, their valuations dropped significantly after retirement.

But Iconix claims to have a masterplan. "As an icon matures, the brands he associates with would also mature," said Krishnamachar.

Without giving any more details, he added, "We would look at going beyond just endorsements to partnerships." So will Brand Sachin move from restaurants to a designer line?

Priyanka Sangani & Prasad Sangameshwaran in Mumbai