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BE Exclusive: Last leg of Brand Sachin could be the best yet

It is Tendulkar's performance in the shortest form of the game that reflects his resilience to remain focused and let the bat do the talking.

, ET Bureau|
May 26, 2010, 07.16 AM IST
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After a gruelling full day shoot at Famous Studios in Mumbai we met Sachin Tendulkar in his vanity van. Looking fresh despite the grind, he apologises for his fisted handshake (due to his right hand webbing injury) before we settle down for a chat with the man. Fulfilling commitments despite the tight schedule and injuries perhaps epitomises Tendulkar both as a player as well as a brand. Nursing an injury that became a top talking point beating all buzz around even the IPL final, Tendulkar took to the grounds with the help of pain killers. But no pill could numb the pain of watching his team lose the match and eventually the title.

However, in his two decades on the field Tendulkar has seen it all. Every time naysayers raised the dreaded finger to declare ‘out’ , the man’s bounced back with intensity and passion. And twenty years is certainly a long time for a cricketer and a brand. Many names have been added as the next big cricketing wonder but their career trajectories have been short. Sachin Tendulkar, the player and brand, to borrow a famous line from Energiser batteries, has gone on and on. With World Cup 2011, the man may well be playing the last big tournament of his cricketing life. Yet, the period leading up to the event could see brand Tendulkar break even more records.

The proof of the pudding is not only the 30,000 runs he has amassed in both the versions of the game or the record breaking double ton in its limited format. It is Tendulkar’s performance in the shortest form of the game that reflects his resilience to remain focused and let the bat do the talking. In IPL 2010, Tendulkar emerged as the highest run-getter accumulating 327 at an average of 109, thus putting to rest the debate on whether T20 is only for players in their 20s. Beginning in 1989, Tendulkar’s journey mirrors the evolution of the game and India in general over the last two decades. “Sachin created for India and for Indians a larger sense of being able to dominate the world in some way. It was a new experience for us,” says Santosh Desai, MD & CEO, Future Brands.

If consistency is the second name for the man on the field, off the field he remains a favourite with brands. Sure, brand Tendulkar’s share of voice trails behind brand Dhoni and so does the list endorsements. But after two decades in the fray, brand Tendulkar is more about quality than quantity; more about premium than volume. Ask the man on his thoughts on brand Tendulkar’s valuation and he says; “my valuation is in runs, not in rupees,” (Read: Thus Spake The Master). Harish Krishnamachar , head of Iconix, the agency that signed Tendulkar in 2006 says brands that have tied up with him have done so because of the stature he has acquired over time. “And some clients have renewed their contracts,” he adds.

HIT&

RUNThe associations, he says, do not hinge on a single match, tournament or score, but a journey over a period of time. So if Boost used Sachin at 16 as a player, today his association with the brand is to project him as a mentor. Even Adidas beginning with plain vanilla endorsement has moved to creating private labels with Sachin. And the evolution of his brand associations reflects the role that Sachin is expected to play on the field — a seasoned player and a mentor to the rest of the team.

While there isn’t a figure one can attribute to brand Tendulkar’s valuation, from 1995, when WorldTel signed Tendulkar for Rs 300 million for a 5-year period, the figure reached Rs 1.8 billion in 2006 with Iconix. And given that Tendulkar has indicated he will be around for the next World cup, observers say the valuation during the last phase of the man’s career could go through the roof. “Tendulkar is the only Indian icon who transcends into one of the biggest global brands of all time and one who has been able to translate his personal iconic touch into launching, building and sustaining brands in the consumer mindspace,” says Vinit Karnik, national director, Group M ESP. Anirban Das Blah, MD, Kwan thinks that Tendulkar associates with brands that are willing to pay the price, “He will not associate with a negative brand and chooses to associate with niche and premium products,” he says. Prahlad Kakar of Genesis Films who has worked with Tendulkar since his Pepsi days says, “earlier he was not particular about brands, but since WorldTel took over his management, they have chosen only big and prestigious brands for him. We shot him for a film on Ujala Blue and I think he accepted the campaign because it spoke about being truthful. So now I think he is taking very calculated decisions based on vision and inspiration rather than only whether it’s a multinational brand or not,” says Kakar.

Tendulkar as a brand has also undergone a change. Kakar of Genesis says, “At 16 he was extremely shy and a horrible actor. But as the years went by, his confidence not only on field but also off-field kept increasing. Today he has become consummately a good actor,” he says. Most brands managers we spoke to swear by his professionalism to the job, “Sachin is a very sharp individual. He understands the intent and purpose of communication rather than just the content. In any of our briefs, he value adds enormously,” says Alok Bharadwaj , senior VP of Canon. Kakar shares an anecdote. When the ‘Sachin Aala Re’ film was shot Tendulkar had used a fly squatter in the film to hit a ball. But after the film was shot, Tendulkar wanted to replace the fly squatter with at least a wicket, “He said the fly squatter makes me look bigger than the game and I shall never be bigger than the game. He understands his position and his place in history,” says Kakar.

The phenomenon called brand Tendulkar has not been built on attributes like astute business sense, understanding the customer, etc but on simplicity , honesty, performance and humility . Besides the brand fit, Rakesh Malhotra, founder & CEO, Luminous Power Technologies says, “Sachin is real. He is popular in India across all age groups and his popularity transcends the boundaries of religion , caste and regions. In ad terms, he has the performance connect plus the personality connect.” V L Rajesh , head of marketing , ITC Foods adds; “Sachin is a once in a lifetime figure, and at the top of the pile, but even then his humility epitomises excellence. He wears his greatness very lightly and is a wholesome personality in every sense. This fits very well with our portfolio of brands that he endorses,” he says. Peter Philips, head of group sponsorships – APac, RBS adds that the association allows flexibility to use Sachin according to the business requirements on the ground. “He works across many different marketing requirements,” he says.

Despite the lean patches, brand marketers and observers say Tendulkar has been able to overcome the hurdles not merely by resting on his laurels, but by sheer performance. The last 24 months, many say, is the booster Tendulkar needed to the World Cup next year. Blah of Kwan thinks that if Tendulkar had hung up his boots three years ago then things would have probably been a little different. “What has happened

over the last two or three years is the redemption of Sachin — whether it was the IPL this year or the form he has shown for the last two-three years. The last two years has seen the redemption and gratification of Sachin in a way that his normal career would not have had. And that puts him on a pedestal that no one can compare to.”

Indeed an example of the Godlike following was demonstrated when Tendulkar joined Twitter, where he broke all records. But breaking records or achieving another milestone no longer makes brand Tendulkar. It’s the ability to consistently deliver despite the pressures, both physical and emotional that makes him a darling of the masses and of course, the brands too.

1995

Rs. 300 mn

WorldTel signed a record five year deal with Tendulkar

2001

Rs. 800 mn

The deal was renewed by WorldTel for another five years for Rs 800 mn

2006

Rs. 1.8 bn

ICONIX signed the deal for a whopping Rs 1.8 bn for a five year sports management contract SOURCE: GROUP M ESP
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