Is Sania Mirza's brand rating with advertisers dwindling? Kerala-based Malabar Gold has replaced her and now, her contract with Tata Tea is up for review.
Tata Tea's contract with Sania Mirza would end in February-March and it is 'doubtful' whether the company would renew it, said Sangeeta Talwar, executive director (marketing), Tata Tea.
However, she clarified that the company was yet to decide whether it would use her for an extension of promotions. "It would be based on market feedback," she said, while acknowledging that the Sania campaign did well for the tea brand.
Anirban Das Blah, vice-president of Globosport, which manages Mirza's account, said, "Tata Tea couldn't afford Sania. We extended the airing rights, which is coming to an end." Tata Tea's reserves and surplus on March 31, 2006 stood at Rs 1,105 crore (Rs 11.05 billion).
Blah also said Coca-Cola, which signed Sania for its Sprite brand last year, could extend the deal to other brands in its portfolio. Coca-Cola portfolio also includes Georgia, a rival brand of Tata Tea. Sania was brand ambassador for Tata Tea and was used in television commercial for Tata Tea Premium and in some tactical promotions for Tata Tea Gold. Her contract with Tata Tea dates back to December 2004, and was renewed in January 2006.
Blah, however, claimed that it was just the airing rights. The Kerala-based jewellery giant Malabar Gold replaced Sania with filmstar Hema Malini. Blah said the Malabar Gold contract ended a year ago.
The moves set the stage for speculation whether Sania's brand quotient was falling in the wake of her falling rankings. From a peak of 34, the teenage tennis star's position slipped to 67 in the latest Women's Tennis Association world rankings.
A top official of a sports marketing agency said as some contracts were performance-linked, a few contracts might not be renewed owing to falling ranking of Sania. Devraj Sanyal, chief operating officer, Percept D'Marc, a sports marketing agency, said the value proposition of celebrities was directly linked to their performance.
Citing an example, he said, "Yuvraj Singh's valuation trebled over the past year on better performance."
Sanyal said the valuations were always linked to performance unless the celebrity had attained a kind of status so that even in turbulent times, he would be valued.
However, Mirza still has a set of steady defenders. Hyundai, for instance, has retained her as a brand ambassador for Getz. "She recently shot a new commercial," said a Hyundai spokesperson. So has Tata Indicom. Abdul Khan, vice-president (brand and marketing), Tata Indicom, said the question of her ranking was important for her performance, but when Tata Indicom signed her, she was at 100-something.
"She has a very strong connect with the Indian youth. Sania has done the country proud, no Indian woman has done so in sports," said Khan.
Tata Indicom signed on Sania a couple of years ago and the contract was just renewed.Her current portfolio of endorsements includes HPCL, Lotto, Deutsche Bank, Tata Indicom, Sprite, GVK Industries, Air India and Hyundai, of which Air India and Deutsche Bank are new contracts.