Sports apparel manufacturers such as Nike, Reebok and Puma have begun preliminary talks to rope in 27-year-old cricketing sensation Shikhar Dhawan as brand endorser. On March 16, Dhawan had registered his name in the record books by scoring the fastest century on debut in his maiden test against Australia. Dhawan is represented by Cornerstone Sports & Entertainment. Cornerstone’s chief executive Bunty Sajdeh declined to comment on the deals the company planned to sign for Dhawan. “Today’s lads are better equipped to deal with pressure than their predecessors. While Dhawan has the charisma to draw eyeballs, I also think he is willing to take challenges head-on. Now, the key challenge for him would be to be consistent with his performance,” says Sajdeh. Earlier, Nike had roped in Virat Kohli as brand ambassador, while Reebok brought Mahendra Singh Dhoni into its fold. Puma had signed Yuvraj Singh and Manoj Tiwary. Experts say these companies are always on the lookout for fresh cricketing talent. “Typically, sports apparel manufacturers are the first ones to try and lock budding talent, especially in batting. Deals typically include visibility on the bat, the cricketer’s playing kit, his gloves, pads, hat and other protection equipment. Most of these are high-visible areas and brands waste no time when it comes to tying up promising players,” says Hitesh Gossain, business head, Percept Talent, and senior vice-president (strategy and business development), Percept. Dhawan’s asking price is about Rs 1 crore, according to people in the know.
However, sports apparel manufacturers are likely to pay less than what Dhawan’s managers demand, as they are the first brands to approach emerging talent. Dhawan joins an increasing number of young cricket stars who have risen on the ad firmament in the last six months, owing to their on-field performances. Others include Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ravinder Jadeja and R Ashwin. These stars have emerged at a time when veterans such as Yuvraj Singh, Virendra Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir appear to be fading. Indranil Das Blah, partner at celebrity and sports management firm CAA Kwan, says, “This churn happens every few years. When Sourav Ganguly took over as captain of the Indian team, youngsters such as Virendra Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh emerged as the darling of advertisers. With Dhoni as captain, players such as Suresh Raina and Gautam Gambhir benefited. Now, you have Cheteshwar Pujara, Shikhar Dhawan, and of course, Virat Kohli---the new kids on the endorsement block.” Of the current lot, Kohli endorses the most brands (about 15). These include Fair & Lovely for Men (from Hindustan Unilever), Cinthol (from Godrej), Toyota, Celkon Mobiles, PepsiCo, Flying Machine Jeans (from Arvind Mills) and TVS Motors, besides Nike. Kohli’s asking price has risen sharply — from Rs 1.5-2 crore a brand a year ago to Rs 3-3.5 crore.