Dubai: It’s a happy coincidence that Virat Kohli’s growth in stature in the Indian cricket team over the last two years has also seen a tremendous surge in his brand value. The mega deal with sports apparel giants adidas, which he signed at the end of September at a reported sum of $6 million annually, has superseded captain even Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s best figures for any single endorsement deal.
Turn on the TV and you find the Indian vice-captain revving up in a Toyota or sipping a bottle of Pepsi during the breaks. With Sachin Tendulkar signing off in a blaze of glory and MSD’s brand value almost saturated, the corporate India’s search to invest in the future superstar seems to have found the answer in the Delhi dasher.
Speaking to Gulf News from India, Bunty Sajdeh, CEO of Kohli’s managers Cornerstone Sport & Entertainment, sounded a happy man. “I can confidently say that Virat today is the highest earner in the bat and sports apparel category by some margin and it’s very doubtful if it can be bettered by anybody else in the foreseeable future.”
Asked if Dhoni’s recent endorsement of Kohli as a future India captain has, in any way, helped with a surge of demand for him, Sajdeh said: “He [Virat] has shown tremendous heart and great ability to absorb pressure on the big stage more than enough times for one and all to hail him as the next captain. MSD is not one to shy away from appreciating the special talent and it is heartening to see the support and preparation Virat is getting for the future.”
With 13 brands under his belt this year, Kohli is certainly the best bet in the business after Dhoni. “I don’t believe the number of brands one signs determines one’s brand value. MSD endorses twice the number of brand Virat associates with; these are the choices both athletes have made. Virat and I have almost always declined more offers than we have accepted. Barring the odd brand in the past, we have always discussed in detail the fit of the association and whether it does as much for the brand as we for it,” he said.
What qualities, apart from his red-hot form with the bat, have endeared him to the corporates? “With age on Virat’s side, his rugged good looks and equally boyish charm coupled with the aggression and competitive fearlessness he displays on the field, Virat is a natural youth icon with a tremendous fan following and an automatic choice for most brands.”
Sajdeh refuses to buy the perception that such attention early on in his career can act as a kind of distraction for the cricketer – and holds up Tendulkar and Dhoni as cases in point. “Virat is a very focused and dedicated cricketer; if he had to be distracted by the unlimited fame and fortune, he would have by now,” he added.