1 Brand, 2 Decades, Infinite equity

1 Brand, 2 Decades, Infinite equity

Planning, investment, performance, results, profits, losses, recovery, maturity and dividends are some of the usual terms associated with day-to-day business. All these qualities are also associable with a man who has seen it all over the last 20 years. This is the story of Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin Tendulkar began with meticulous ‘planning’ like any businessman would do. He ‘invested’ hours and hours of preparation time that reflected in his immediate ‘performances’. The ‘results’ were seen by all when it delivered good ‘profits’ and the unavoidable odd ‘losses’ here and there. Like all successful businessmen would do, Sachin too ‘recovered’ from these odd hiccups more often than not by getting increasingly ‘mature’ and went on to yield rich ‘dividends’ by carving himself a name amongst the greatest to have ever played this gentleman’s game.

“We are extremely proud to be associated with Sachin and Boost’s brand ambassadors are a reflection of its core values and personality. Its brand values include inspiration, determination, everlasting energy to perform and desire to win and Sachin very aptly mirrors these values. We believe that it takes time to build and cement a fruitful relationship. It is therefore our endeavor to constantly deepen our relationship with our brand ambassadors and we hope to build on this association further in years to come”

It is a well-known fact that Sachin has been a phenomenon on the cricket field and I leave the job of describing and deciphering his on-field exploits to the cricket experts.  What interests me is his equally phenomenal run off it, if not more.

Breakthrough deal

If the cricket fever in India was touching a peak during the 90s, it was certainly because of the illness caused by Sachin. The whole mood of the Indian cricket fan was hysteric, to say the least, and Sachin was embraced by them, one and all. In 1996, seven years after his debut for India, Sachin undertook a historical signing of Rs 30 Crores with WorldTel for managing his commercial deals and set the ball rolling, literally. “You’ve got to create heroes and you’ve got to pay them,” said Late Mark Mascarenhas of WorldTel and took Sachin a step closer to the homes of the fans – the route – TV commercials. In a sense, this WorldTel deal proved to be a gateway for the future of commercialization in cricket, or should I say cricketers.

“What then made this deal possible was the shift in how the industry viewed itself. So in many ways this symbolized the coming of age of our economy. It meant that brand custodians were confident that they would recover their investment many times over”, says Suresh Mohankumar, Vice President, Mudra South.

Sachin kick-started trends off the field too. From energy drinks to credit cards, he started selling them all. A millionaire was made. A millionaire out of a cricketer was made. There have been cricketers endorsing consumer products in the past, Kapil and Sunny to name a few, but none were as gigantic as Sachin, in terms of market acceptance and mass appeal. One can go to the extent of saying Sachin is India’s first successful superstar brand ambassador.

Popularity nonpareil

Such has been his domination off the field, he has held on to the spot of the World’s richest cricketer for more than a decade. It has been nothing more than a mere reflection of his activities on it during the same time. With every passing year, Sachin continued to set milestones in the endorsements space too. Despite the presence of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, the other two solid performers during the 2nd half of Sachin’s illustrious career, he managed to stay on top in terms of both popularity and commercial value.

A case in point here would be TVS Motors appointing Sachin to sell their new motorbike Victor. In September 2003, TVS Victor enjoyed a 14 per cent increase in sales following a newly aired commercial featuring the master blaster. Such was the power of his presence considering the bike was struggling to pick up sales prior to that advertisement.

Talking about Sachin’s brand value, Pawan Sud, General Manager – Nutritionals, GlaxoSmithKline says, “We are extremely proud to be associated with Sachin and Boost’s brand ambassadors are a reflection of its core values and personality. Its brand values include inspiration, determination, everlasting energy to perform and desire to win and Sachin very aptly mirrors these values. We believe that it takes time to build and cement a fruitful relationship. It is therefore our endeavor to constantly deepen our relationship with our brand ambassadors and we hope to build on this association further in years to come”. It is interesting to note here that Boost remains to be the only brand to have had Sachin as its ambassador throughout his playing years starting 1990.

Freakonomics this?

Every event has a starting point. A certain ignition is required for events to take shape and emerge. To understand the happening of one such event, erase the chapter called Tendulkar in Indian cricket, for the time being. Imagine India was a cricketing nation minus Tendulkar, everything else remaining the same.

The 90s that was often referred to as a one-man show for Team India would have eventually been an eleven-man no-show without Tendulkar. India would have had Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for company throughout such a period. Brand endorsements would have literally been zilch; perhaps Azharuddin would have had one or two products.

Now switch to the 2000s. Dravid and Ganguly would have become marginally improved players in a no Tendulkar scenario. Victories would now have become a surety against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and a possibility against England and West Indies albeit at home. Dravid and Ganguly may have cracked some endorsement deals but none as big as Sachin’s in 1996. If Indian cricketers other than Sachin have made successful brand contracts today, it is certainly because of the success of Sachin and his showing the way to do it.

To take this argument one step further, Sachin’s mammoth signing in as early as 1996 has in more than one way proved to be the gateway for things to come. If BCCI is a rich board today with multiplying interests, the principal investment has been the currency called Sachin. If BCCI today runs the world’s most innovative and successful tournament, the Indian Premier League, the ignition has been Sachin’s never-seen-before contract in 1996.

“Sachin’s 1996 deal was the tipping point in the whole endorsement game in Indian sports and entertainment. The confidence that this deal had brought in with respect to raking in ROI has made the marketers up their ante which is reflected in the kind of moolah that a domestic cricket player today takes home in an IPL season”, says Jayesh Nair, a media planner with Mudra Connext. Tipping Point it certainly was, only that it happened to be a big thing that made bigger differences for the sports business today.