<p>His double century at Motera in Ahmedabad has caught the attention of not just cricket aficionados, but also advertisers. 24-year-old Test cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara seems to be the new kid on the endorsement block, with companies such as Hero and Sahara said to be considering him a possible brand ambassador. While executives from the two companies were not immediately available for their comments, Harish Krishnamachar, country head and senior vice-president, World Sports Group (WSG), which manages Pujara's endorsements, confirmed that it was talking to a few companies. He declined to indicate who they were.
"Pujara has the promise and potential," says Krishnamachar, "which is why we signed him on about six-seven months ago. He is grounded as a cricketer, which should hold him in good stead."
Brand experts say that Pujara exhibits qualities of stability and reliability, which could find takers in brands that want to promote the notion of solidity. However, they also say that Pujara would take some time to emerge as a true replacement to Rahul Dravid, who earned the sobriquet of 'The Wall' for holding his own at the crease. "Pujara certainly has the spark, but describing him as a replacement to Dravid would be a bit premature at this stage," says Bunty Sajdeh, chief executive officer, Cornerstone Sport & Entertainment, who manages the endorsements of cricketer Virat Kohli. "I think he would need some more time and a few more knocks. That's all."
Like Dravid, Pujara is not expected to attract a list of brands, say experts, but the ones who will finally associate with him are likely to do so keeping in mind a long-term view. "You need flamboyant cricketers as well as ones who are dependable," says Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, a Mumbai-based celebrity management firm. "Pujara falls in the latter category, so yes, a list of brands that, for instance, go with Virat Kohli, may not go with Pujara, but he is still likely to have a decent number of advertisers associating with him."
Dravid, for instance, had advertisers such as Bank of Baroda, Britannia, Castrol, Karnataka Tourism, Max New York Like backing him. At his peak, Dravid charged anywhere between Rs 2-3 crore per brand, with advertisers such as Bank of Baroda opting to work him over an extended period of time. Another example of a sportsperson who stands for reliability and stability and has worked with an advertiser over an extended period of time has been chess champion Viswanathan Anand. His association with NIIT began in 1999. It continues to this day. Pujara is also likely to go down that road as advertisers discover a new kid on the endorsement block.