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With Rs 100-crore endorsement kitty, is Dhoni setting up the end game?

May 14, 2019 09:00 IST

He is the face of the e-sports platform Dream11, the fantasy league platform, online bus ticketing platform RedBus, web hosting company, GoDaddy as well as traditional big-ticket brands such as Colgate.

Widely believed to be playing his last World Cup in 2019, M S Dhoni is cranking up his endorsements game.

In 2018, he added more than 10 brands to his list and stepped into the hallowed Rs 100 crore club, the only Indian sportsperson after Virat Kohli to do that.

 

Now with 25 brands and a documentary on his life (Roar), talent managers and brand experts believe that he may be packing the field in anticipation that the upcoming World Cup (starts May 30) to be played in England to be his last one.

According to a report by ESP Properties (GroupM) Dhoni ranks second on the athlete endorser list.

Valued at Rs 100 crore (sharp jump over Rs 60 crore in 2017) he is well behind Kohli (around Rs 200 crore) but way ahead of the rest.

To put things in perspective, Dhoni’s brand value had almost halved (Forbes Fab 40 2016) between 2015 and 2016 and then took a further hit after he announced he was stepping down as captain of the limited overs format in 2017.

His subsequent rise in valuation and jump in the number of endorsements has come about despite these factors.

There are many reasons behind the resurgence of Brand Dhoni says a brand manager who prefers to remain anonymous.

“His game has evolved. He has adapted to all formats of the game and remains relevant from a brand endorsement point of view,” he says.

His adaptability and ability to stay relevant has helped Dhoni get new brands, even new-age ones.

He is the face of the e-sports platform Dream11, the fantasy league platform, online bus ticketing platform RedBus, web hosting company, GoDaddy as well as traditional big-ticket brands such as Colgate.

“Dhoni has been a popular youth icon, known for his strategic decision-making, consistent performance and perseverance. His personality perfectly complements the skill sets required for Dream11,” says Harsh Jain, CEO and co-founder of Dream11.

Dhoni’s rise is also credited to the sharp drop in the number of ‘brandable’ athletes say some.

While Kohli is a clear frontrunner, the options are limited thereafter.

The young cricketers are still being tested and none is considered a bankable brand yet.

There are few alternatives to Kohli at present, they say, and Dhoni has stepped in to fill the gap.

“While there is no denying his value as a brand endorser, right now, it’s a case of making the most of a situation.

"There are around five to six cricketers who can be considered for endorsement gigs, and of them Kohli is too expensive for most brands.

"Dhoni is the next best choice, and he is making the most of the demand.

"At this point in his career, the more the merrier.

"Also, like Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni started his endorsement journey when fees had not sky-rocketed,” says Harish Bijoor, founder, Harish Bijoor Consults, which makes him more affordable.

Bijoor believes that Dhoni is being strategic about his endorsements.

It is logical that the man known to measure his words as much as his game, plan his retirement years well.

It will help him maintain some play in the endorsement business once he retires, much like Tendulkar.

Indranil Das Blah, co-CEO at KWAN, an entertainment firm that deals in sports marketing says that Dhoni’s career trajectory has ensured him a longer innings in the endorsement field than his active cricketing days.

“He’s had a great run as a captain, and a cricketer. Moreover, he has been fairly controversy free for most part of his career. His post retirement endorsement career should flourish as well,” he says.

Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Urvi Malvania
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