Cricketer Virat Kohli has become the most popular Indian on the photo and video sharing platform Instagram with 200 million followers, a landmark that experts say will only boost his brand value.
With a brand value of $185.7 million, according to a 2021 Duff & Phelps report that valued celebrities, Kohli's strong presence on Instagram will lead to stronger overall social media reach, which last year was in the range of 15 million to 65 million across platforms.
"He is now not only the most followed Indian but also the third most followed athlete after (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi. His following is directly proportional to his popularity and the more it grows the more his brand value will increase," Jogesh Lulla, chief operating officer of Cornerstone Sport, told Moneycontrol.
Cornerstone Sport is the talent management company that manages the portfolio of Virat Kohli.
"Every brand today uses a celebrity’s social media following as a metric before zeroing in on the right face for their brand. In Virat’s case, as well, I am sure there will be a lot more enquiries that will come our way," he added.
Social media visibility
The social media following of the cricket star, a former Indian captain, grew 60.7 percent last year, up from 46.3 percent in 2020.
Kohli, who endorses more than 30 brands across industries, added new brand endorsements last year including Digit Insurance, Hyperice, Lux and Vivo, frequently posts on Instagram on the brands.
"Considering the number of followers (Kohli has), every brand that associates with him does expect some visibility on his social media. He hasn’t done too many Instagram-only deals but we do evaluate the options when they come our way," said Lulla.
He added that digital-heavy or D2C (direct-to-consumer) brands with an online presence were keen on brand associations with the cricketer on digital media.
"Virat is continuing to grow pretty rapidly on social media and I feel he still has a lot of room for growth. The number of brands requesting social media posts has definitely been increasing," Lulla said.
A prerequisite for digital-only
Aviral Jain, managing director of Kroll, a company that provides proprietary data, technology and insights, said social media metrics like the number of followers, engagement rates, and average like comments ratio have become critical in endorsement decisions by brands.
"Accordingly, a celebrity with a high social media following by a variety of audience with a positive engagement rate has become a prerequisite for digital-only campaigns," Jain said.
One reason why Kohli continues to be at the top in the Indian brand endorsement market is his strong social media presence, Jain added.
"In 2021, with 265 million followers, Kohli's follower base was twice the size of the next five celebrities who had an average social media presence of 140 million followers," said Jain.Jain said the recent 200 million followers tag is expected to attract a raft of global brands as well as brands focusing on digital-only campaigns.
He thinks a strong following on Instagram will help Kohli score more endorsement deals.
"During the COVID-19 lockdown, with limited or no access to the physical world, brands realized the importance of digital advertising and social media campaigns. Thus today, brands are opting for digital-focused and multiple campaign-based associations with celebrities," he said.
Top celebrity influencers like Virat Kohli charge around Rs 50-70 lakh per post, said Pranav Panpalia, founder of OpraahFx, an influencer marketing platform.
"But the charges may vary depending upon their involvement," he added.
According to a Forbes report, Kohli is the highest earning Indian on Instagram with the cricketer charging Rs 5 lakh per post. He earned over Rs 5 crore in 2021 by posting videos and images on Instagram.
"The 200-million mark (on Instagram) is likely to increase Virat’s Instagram endorsement value, as every single post will reach that many number of fans," said N. Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, a consumer analytics and brand insights company.
He added that Instagram and other social media followers were important indicators to brands about the popularity of the endorser and his following on Instagram will bring Kohli into more visibility.
Last year, Kohli had faced flak for his Instagram post on Lovely Professional University (LPU), which had no disclaimer of it being a paid advertisement despite being sponsored content."Instagram is a fast growing medium for brands for engagement with audiences. However, with stringent ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) guidelines on social media promotion by endorsers, overall social media and influencer posts are not as easy as they used to be in the past," said Chandramouli.