The making of brand Virat
Oct 11 2013
Kohli has overtaken his skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as India’s most valuable sportsperson in terms of off-the-ground earnings
Not very long ago, the boy from West Delhi's Paschim Vihar was ranked ninth on Forbes magazine of richest Indian celebrities, which estimated his worth at around Rs 125 crore, derived from a yearly income that was a combination of endorsements, salary and bonuses.
With the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar — himself once the blue-eyed boy of cricket endorsements — hogging the headlines on the day, Kohli may find himself momentarily out of the public eye, but there is no doubt that he is being looked at with good reason as one for the long run, including the India captaincy, which will probably boost his viability — and earning potential — even further. At last count, Kohli, whose cricketing feats are as staggering as his endorsement list, was the public face of major brands like Reebok, Godrej, Cinthol, Nestle India, Arvind’s Flying Machine, Titan Fastrack, PepsiCo, Fair & Lovely, TVS Motors, Celkon Mobiles and Toyota.
He recently broke free from sports gear giant Nike and with each brand worth anything between Rs 2 crore and Rs 5 crore per year, Kohli is already looking at his income from cricket as being an extra. Here too, as an A-list India player, he draws Rs 7 lakh per test match, Rs 4 lakh per ODI and Rs 2 lakh from every T20 international. Bonus takings are over and above.
In 2013, his salary is estimated to have hit the Rs 1 crore mark — not counting match fees and tournament prize moneys, among others — and he can still afford to look at his cricket-related income more as pocket money.
In the course of the year, Kohli overtook his skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, as India’s most valuable sportsperson, in terms of off-the-ground earning. The two had already overtaken Tendulkar — for years the blue chip celebrity when it came to endorsements — by 2012 itself, and with the Master Blaster taking himself off the active list shortly, the two are expected to gain still further.
So what makes Kohli such a hot ticket? Not only is he young and urban-cool, he also embodies “attitude”, which marketers find irresistible. A look at the sort of commercials Kohli appears in now is a good indicator of where he fits — a pan-Indian presence, aspirational, and best of all, an achiever. And with India’s growing skew towards youth in its population, it makes for an automatic fit.
In a wider sense, Kohli also represents the democratisation of Indian cricket, which began about a decade ago. For years, the sport was dominated by the big cities, and even there, by certain enclaves. With the advent of the Dhonis, the Harbhajan Singhs, the Praveen Kumars, the game demonstrated it had planted deep roots in areas not even looked at seriously earlier as nurseries of talent.
Then came the Indian Premier League. Lalit Modi’s baby is what really opened the eyes of India’s cricketers. Not just the test and ODI stars, but of those far below them in the pecking order. Along with opportunities for domestic cricketers has come a widening of the fan and viewer base. All of this spells outreach for brands keen to establish links with their target markets, and an ambassador they cannot afford to ignore.