Virat Kohli emerged the most valuable celebrity in the country for the fourth straight year, according to the “Celebrity Brand Valuation Study 2020” released by Duff & Phelps on Thursday. At $237.7 million, the Indian cricket captain’s brand value remained almost unchanged from last year. Actor Akshay Kumar, who saw his value jump from $104.5 million to $118.9 million — a 13.8 per cent increase — was second on the list, followed by Bollywood A-listers Ranveer Singh ($102.9 million), Shah Rukh Khan ($51.1 million), Deepika Padukone ($50.4 million) and Alia Bhatt ($48 million).
Others in the top 10 included Salman Khan ($45 million), Amitabh Bachchan ($44.2 million) and Hrithik Roshan ($39.4 million). Cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who retired from the game last year, was dislodged from the list.
“While established celebrities continue to dominate our rankings, notable millennials with a strong social media presence continue to climb the ladder. Ayushmann Khurrana, Tiger Shroff and Rohit Sharma all jumped a few spots to grab the No 6, 15 and 17 spots, respectively,” said Aviral Jain, managing director at Duff & Phelps.
For Kohli, Jain said his style of leadership, commitment and work ethic resonate deeply with brands. Add to that the unflinching determination that has become a Kohli hallmark over the years, and you get a combination that is pretty much impossible to beat. “When you take into account his endorsements — he has over 30 — and social media presence, Kohli, in terms of brand value, is unrivalled,” he said. In 2020 alone, Kohli’s followers across social media platforms rose by almost 50 per cent.
Interestingly, despite the pandemic battering the movie business, the top 10, with the exception of Kohli, were exclusively film stars. Among the biggest gainers was Khurrana whose value soared by nearly 20 per cent. Khurrana’s Gulabo Sitabo, which also starred Bachchan, was the first major Hindi film to get an OTT release — Amazon Prime Video — after the lockdown forced movie theatres to stay shut almost all of last year.
“His perseverance, coupled with the fact that he is able to connect with the audience by raising important social issues in his films, is what makes him such a force,” said Jain. From clothing to grooming products, Khurrana endorsed 27 brands last year — up from 17 in 2019. The number of total endorsements by the top 20, however, witnessed a slight dip due to the pandemic. Lockdown restrictions meant that the figure fell from 370 in 2019 to 357 in 2020, a decline of 3.5 per cent.
“Overall, the brand value of the top 20 celebrities in 2020 saw a dip by about 5 per cent compared to 2020 due to the pandemic and stood at about $1 billion,” read the report.
The endorsement fees, though, stayed largely the same, with the big celebrities successfully managing to renegotiate contracts at pre-Covid rates. “The major celebs remained unaffected. But we did see many brands signing up celebrities for short-term contracts, a bit like influencer campaigns,” said Jain. “There, the fees were down by 20-25 per cent.”
Such a strategy was chiefly driven by the popularity of digital media. The report noted that the days of basic collaboration are in the past, adding that in the time of Covid-19, penetration of digital OTT platforms and escalation of social media have increased as a marketing tool. It also highlighted the rise of sports celebrities, who enjoyed the limelight more than usual because of a hugely successful 13th season of the Indian Premier League and the absence of new film releases in theatres.