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How Sachin continues to score big

April 21, 2019 10:58 IST

Five years into retirement, the little master is the third highest paid sports endorser.
How did he script his return to relevance?
Urvi Malvania finds out.

Photograph: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

When Sachin Tendulkar retired from cricket in 2013, none expected him to fade away into the twilight.

Still, few would have anticipated that he would be rocking the endorsement charts well into his retirement years.

Valued at Rs 40 crore/Rs 400 million, Tendulkar has knocked badminton ace P V Sindhu off the third spot in the highest paid endorsers' list (GroupM ESP Properties's Sporting Nation in the Making-VI) in 2018.

And after Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni at first and second spot, he is the highest paid sports endorser in the country today.

 

How did the cricketer play his way back into reckoning?

According to the report, Tendulkar was the face of 10 brands last year.

UNICEF, BMW, Luminous, Smartron, GM Pens, Aster Pharmacy, DBS Bank, Sony Ten, Smash and Quaker.

Overall he is associated with 17 brands (he had 24 prior to retirement).

According to his team, Tendulkar's fee per day per year has seen a growth of 4x over the past five years, while the aggregate value of his brand associations has gone up 1.8 times in the same time period, despite the decline in the absolute number of brands endorsed.

Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties says, "Sachin is a cricketing legend, moreover, he is also an inspiration to the masses for his off-field conduct and gestures. This role model image of Sachin is what attracts advertising dollars."

True, but like all things Tendulkar, his return too has taken meticulous planning.

Around three years back, he set up a company to manage his brand and investments called SRT Sports Management.

He launched his app through SRT and Mrinmoy Mukherjee, director and CEO, SRT Sports Management says they spent a lot of time understanding what Sachin the brand stands for.

"We went back to the fundamentals of brand planning. This meant talking to his fans and followers and understanding what Sachin stands for (in their minds) now that he is off the playing field. We did the same with brand partners to understand how they relate to the personality," says Mukherjee.

Talking to fans and brand partners was just the start.

The team then sat with Sachin to understand his passions and the big ideas that he wanted to pursue, post retirement.

As a result, the brand is now positioned on "not just the fact that he is one of the greatest players of the game, but what went into becoming one of the greats of the game," Mukherjee explains.

"There are two brands that are really huge, Sachin Tendulkar and Amitabh Bachchan. They will never go away. Yes, there was a bit of slump after retirement (for Tendulkar), but that is natural," says Indranil das Blah, co-CEO at KWAN, a sports management agency.

Brand Tendulkar, Mukherjee says, is not just about the game of cricket, but about health and fitness as a whole, not only because it is a vital part of any athlete's career, but because the former team India captain is passionate about it.

Sachin believes it is time India becomes a sports playing nation, rather than a sports watching one, Mukherjee points out.

The brand is more than the endorsements in the bag. Hence the team has been working with central and state ministries to include sports in the curriculum, tying up with brands on special initiatives and CSR activities around sport.

Many times, these also include brand partnerships, which may have an endorsement element, or a deeper business partnership.

As a result, the associations between the brands and Tendulkar are more than pure endorsement deals, they include business partnerships and other long-term associations.

"Before retirement, it was about the cricketer Tendulkar. Now it is more about the statesman Tendulkar," das Blah adds.

Mukherjee concurs, adding that brands are looking beyond just his on-field performance.

"The focus is on how he played the game. That is where brands derive trust in him, from how he has conducted himself. This is what makes him endearing to brands, and to the audiences."

This has also meant a change in the profile of brands.

For example, any brand with unhealthy implications, is not an option.

So while a cola brand may have been a choice in the past, it is no longer on the list.

"While some may look at it as a narrowing of choices, I would say it has sharpened our focus and that's why there's been an increase in the value of the brand," Mukherjee says.

Like on the field, off the field too, numbers matter for the master batsman.

Urvi Malvania
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