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Mint it like badminton

Saina joins cricketers in the big league of brand endorsers, screen idol Salman leads the pack

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With a Rs 40-crore three-year deal with in her kitty, badminton star is now the world’s richest player in her sport. Team India skipper makes about fives times what Nehwal would from endorsements but the badminton ace trumps quite a few peers from the country’s most lucrative sport, cricket.

Incidentally, the same sports management agency had signed Dhoni in 2010 for a three-year deal worth Rs 210 crore. Nehwal’s earnings just from endorsements, based on website figures for other top international badminton stars, make for pretty reading. That includes her male counterparts such as Malaysian world number two Lee Chong Wei (who makes Rs 8.8 crore annually, including endorsements, match fees and others) or the medallist Lin Dan (who makes Rs 12.6 crore annually).

Confirms Arun Pandey, chairman and managing director of Rhiti Sports, “Yes, she is the highest endorsement earner in the world as far as the game of badminton goes. She is a sports icon of the country and also the highest paid endorser in non-cricketing sports.”

Stars’ income from brand endorsements 
(per year)
Rs 80 cr
Rs 70 cr
M S Dhoni
Rs 40 cr
Sachin Tendulkar
Rs 30 cr 
Virat Kohli
Rs 13 cr+
Saina Nehwal
Figures based on industry estimates

Kwan Entertainment & Marketing Solutions COO says, “Saina is the leading non-cricketing sports personality, who is performing consistently and the deals are value for money. Though, if you compare with cricketing celebrities, there is a huge gap. Earlier, just after winning an Olympic gold medal, Abhinav Bindra had signed a few very high-value deals. But Saina is consistently successful.”

Amongst the ladies, ace tennis player Sania Mirza had made the cut in the big league. During her peak, she was able to earn anything between Rs 12 crore and Rs 15 crore annually, more or less in line with what Nehwal would be earning every year.

Amongst emerging cricket stars, endorsement agencies say Virat Kohli is the new kid on the block. They estimate the run machine’s endorsement earnings for a year are already in the range of Rs 30 crore.

Sachin Tendulkar, who tied up with WSG, earns about Rs 40 crore annually, according to the industry. But most experts say he has reached his peak rates of endorsement.

In fact, no matter how big sports personalities are, it’s movie stars who rule even at the advertising box office. The success of their films influences endorsement earnings. Even Dhoni’s domination as the highest earner in the endorsement business, especially after India’s victory in the World Cup, has been challenged.

Bollywood star Salman Khan, who has blazed the box office with five consecutive superhit movies, makes more than Rs 80 crore a year from endorsements, according to the industry. That catapults him to the top slot. Dhoni’s average a year is Rs 70 crore.

In terms of single corporate deals, Dhoni and Khan have been going neck and neck on the price they command — Rs 10 crore, according to those in the business. Tendulkar is available for around Rs 5.5 crore.

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