One of the world's best golfers is also India's most-expensive brand endorser. By landing a four-year deal with the world's largest two-wheeler maker by volume, Hero Motocorp, American Tiger Woods has pipped our desi boys to the post in terms of endorsement fees.
The 38-year-old Woods is rumoured to be taking home around $4-5 million (or Rs 25-30 crore) a year for his endorsement of Hero. In contrast, Bollywood actor-producer Aamir Khan, considered the most-expensive brand endorser among Indian movie stars, walks home with an estimated $2-2.5 million (or Rs 12-15 crore) per year for every endorsement he undertakes. The numbers have been sourced from celebrity managers who negotiate and manage endorsements of stars.
Woods is also way ahead of some of the international names that have lent their star power to Indian brands in recent years. These include Maria Sharapova and Hugh Jackman, who were roped in by real estate company Homestead and handset maker Micromax a year-and-a-half to two years ago for an estimated $1.5-1.75 million (or Rs 9-10 crore), respectively.
Woods beats local favourites Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan hands down in terms of endorsement fees. The two Khans along with Ranbir Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni take home $1 million (or Rs 6-7 crore) per year per brand.
Why is Hero paying so much for Woods? Because, as brand experts say, the company is keen to tap into his international appeal to make inroads into global markets as well as position itself as a premium entity in India.
"Woods is a known name in international markets and having him to endorse Hero will lend credibility as well as fame to the Hero brand name. The latter is largely known in the Indian market," says the head of a celebrity management firm who has worked with Hero Motocorp earlier.
Harish Bijoor, chief executive officer, Harish Bijoor Consults, says, "Indian companies wanting a global image use internationally known celebrities as brand endorsers. Woods' endorsement falls in that bracket. However, I am not sure whether the brand fit is right since Woods represents a niche sport, which is golf, while Hero Motocorp is about bikes targeted at the common man. So here is a sportsman representing a niche sport versus a product that is mass. I am not sure where is the fit here."
Pawan Munjal, vice-chairman and managing director, Hero Motocorp, in a statement on Tuesday, however, said Woods was just the personality the company was seeking to give Hero the necessary boost. "His appeal cuts across age groups and geographies and he will also be our corporate partner for the next four years. He will also promote the Hero brand across the world, and not just in the US market," he said.
Celebrity managers say Hero has been long associated with golf and has professional golfers such as Anirban Lahiri, Shiv Kapur, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Daniel Chopra and Sharmila Nicollet as its brand ambassadors. In September, Hero had announced a separate four-year deal with the Tiger Woods Foundation to become the title sponsor of the Hero World Challenge, a PGA Tour event.
Brand experts say signing up names such as Woods or even Jackman helps the products they are endorsing to stand out in the advertising clutter. When Hollywood actor Hugh Jackman was taken on board in October last year, Micromax's co-founder Rahul Sharma had said, "We aspire to emerge as a strong global brand. It is not just about India. It is time for more, beyond the subcontinent."
Analysts tracking Micromax had said Jackman's endorsement would help the company tap into users of Samsung and Apple phones, who till then had spurned Micromax owing to its perception of being a value brand targeted at price-conscious consumers.
Since then there has been a change in perception. For the quarter ending September 2014, Micromax had narrowed the gap with Samsung in terms of volume market share, standing at 20 per cent versus Samsung's 24 per cent, according to a study by International Data Corporation (IDC).
In terms of value, however, Samsung still leads with a share of 41.5 per cent versus Micromax's 10.6 per cent, according to a study by market research firm GfK. But analysts tracking the industry say Samsung's high value share is mainly on account of the push the company is giving to phones priced Rs 40,000 and above in comparison with Micromax, which is present largely in the sub-Rs 20,000 a unit category.
Clearly, Micromax has gained from its association with Jackman. Hero Motocorp seems to be taking its cue.