As the master blaster hangs up his boots after playing his 200th Test match next month, the question is: Will Sachin Tendulkar, regarded as a demi-god in India, remain the darling of advertisers as he has been through the years?
His agency managing his endorsements, namely, World Sport Group (WSG), says that it has already factored in the batsman's retirement plans in their deals. "The transactions we do for Sachin are normally those that are at least three years and above. Quite a few of them have been with Sachin for a while," says Harish Krishnamachar, senior vice-president and country head, WSG, implying that brands are not likely to desert him in a hurry.
Advertisers such as Adidas, Coca-Cola, Toshiba and Aviva, who work him, have said, when contacted, that they have no plans to drop the ace cricketer. "Sachin is one of the greatest the game has seen and he will continue to be an inspiration to many," says Tushar Goculdas, brand director, Adidas India. "We have shared a great partnership with him over the last 16 years and it will continue."
Coca-Cola India said, "Sachin's appeal cuts across boundaries, genres and geographies. He is an icon of happiness much like Coca-Cola, and we will continue to look towards him for spreading happiness."
Abhishek Mehta, head, marketing communications, digital & services division, Toshiba India, said that Sachin stood for reliability, trust, quality and innovation - the attributes one can also associate with Toshiba. So why should we drop him? he asks
Rishi Piparaiya, director - marketing & bancassurance, Aviva Life Insurance, said the company would continue its association with Sachin in the future as well.
Rohan Pate, director of Pune-based real estate company Amit Enterprises, said "The visibility that we have achieved in the last two to three years since we got him on board has been enormous. I intend to continue with him at least for another few years."
Besides Coke, Adidas, Toshiba, Aviva and Amit, Tendulkar endorses another 11 brands including names such as Boost, BMW, Audemars Piguet (a Swiss watch brand), Sunfeast (from ITC), Future Group, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Luminous (inverters and other power equipment ) and Kaspersky Lab (anti-virus and internet security solutions).
The Mumbai-based cricketer, who stands five-feet-five inches tall, takes home easily Rs 4-5 crore per brand, according to persons in the know. Sports managers say that with Tendulkar's visibility coming down post retirement, chances of him charging a premium for his ads and appearances will increase. "The number of brand associations may come down," says Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer of sports & celebrity management firm Kwan Entertainment. "But he will most likely increase his endorsement fees," he says.
This is likely to be in the region of Rs 6-7 crore per brand, sports marketing experts say. Tendulkar is already said to be negotiating a position within Mumbai Indians' management team, seeking to continue his association as a mentor or coach for the T20 side he was part of over the last six years of the Indian Premier League (IPL). This information, however, could not be immediately verified.
WSG's Krishnamachar does hint that Tendulkar's off-field exploits will grow following retirement. "Brand Sachin transcends cricket. It is a name that has enough credibility to invoke trust and confidence. As an active cricketer, Sachin has barely had the time. Post retirement, he will have time on his hands," he said.
In the past, the cricketer, who began his professional career at the age of 16, lent his name to a chain of restaurants promoted by the Mumbai-based Sanjay Narang Group. He has also lent his name to Future Group's brand of toothpastes called Sach. Last month, Toshiba, which signed him on in 2010 as its brand ambassador, launched a new range of LED TVs co-created by the cricketer. "It is a TV that has a dedicated cricket mode," explains Mehta of Toshiba. "When you switch to this mode, your viewing experience of cricket is much better. We actually took Sachin's inputs when developing this product," he said.
In the last three years, since associating with Tendulkar, Mehta claims awareness of Toshiba TVs has increased from six per cent to 25 per cent. "We propose to market this new range of TVs aggressively," he says.
Besides Toshiba, brands such as Coca-Cola, Adidas, Aviva and Luminous are expected to amplify their marketing activities around the 200th test match the cricketer will play next month.