End of an era--- this is the common sentiment amid people after cricketer MS Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket.
So, he will not be seen much on field but his presence off the field will not be any less, believe brand experts. And with that they mean Dhoni retiring from international cricket will have no significant impact on his endorsement game.
“Brand Dhoni has been like the lamp that burns brightest before it dies out. In the past 3-4 years he had more endorsements than maybe 10 years ago when he was at his peak as captain. His retirement now will not immediately impact his appeal to advertisers — many contracts are still in force, and he will play Indian Premier League (IPL) in autumn this year and spring next year. So, will remain visible and relevant,” Sandeep Goyal, Chief Mentor of the Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB), told Moneycontrol.
Last year Dhoni jumped up three ranks on Duff & Phelps’ Celebrity Brand Valuation report with a brand value of USD 41.2 million (Rs 308 crore) as compared to USD 26.9 million (Rs 201 crore ) in 2018.
In addition, Dhoni left behind cricketer Virat Kohli in doing number of endorsement deals in 2019. While Dhoni appeared in as many as 44 brand campaigns, Kohli came in a close second with 43 brands.
Dhoni endorses over 25 brands including Indigo Paints, RedBus, GoDaddy, Snickers, among others.
In fact, Dhoni is a smart investor as well. He has his own athleisure brand called SEVEN, and a gym venture SportsFit World. Furthermore, he is the co-owner of Chennaiyin FC. The cricketer last year invested in Cars24 besides co-owning sports management firm Rhiti Sports.
Goyal pointed that Dhoni has a good endorsement market and is seen to be trustworthy and dependable. “As he grew older, he also gained some gravitas. Hence, took on an expert or advisor role in the ads. Plus, he does not have much competition in his age group ... Yuvraj, Sehwag have faded from active memory. Ganguly is now in a higher public orbit,” he added.
But will the retirement lead to lower endorsement fees?
“Reportedly his rates were already softer after he quit the longer form of the game and retirement was looming large. He charges maybe half of Virat Kohli. So, if you as a brand manager want a saleable celebrity, and have a lower budget, Dhoni for a while has been the best cost-effective choice anyway,” said Goyal.
If we go by estimates of media planners, Kohli charges endorsement fees in the range of Rs 4.5-5 crore for a day.
Experts say that people like Dhoni, Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar have gone beyond on-field performances as they have become huge brands.
Talking about Tendulkar, Goyal said, “Sachin has one big plus over all other cricketers --- the Bharat Ratna, which stamped his legendary status with far more authority than cricket records making him a national icon. Sachin is in still slow fade out. Still relevant. Still recognized. Still recalled. So, it won’t be a torrent but a heavy trickle that will continue to flow to him on advertising.”
And something similar is expected for Dhoni who over the years has built strong brand equity thanks to his strong career graph in cricket.