Team India at the ongoing Tokyo Paralympics has surpassed its best-ever medal tally of four medals that it achieved at Rio Games in 2016.
The Paralympic stars are now trending on social media thanks to their seven medal wins including two gold, four silver and one bronze.
And brands too have taken note of their achievements at the ongoing games.
After Avani Lekhara won gold in shooting, Mahindra Group's Chairman Anand Mahindra tweeted that the company will gift the para-athlete an SUV which will be a specially designed vehicle.
Even MG Motor India announced its plan to gift an SUV to para-athlete Bhavina Patel who won a silver medal in table tennis.
While there are such micro-conversations on social, will they convert into brand endorsements for the para-athletes?
"I have been tracking traction on Twitter and I do see a shift. While it won't be a 100 percent convert, there will be some stories that will stand out. So, there will be interest from brands," Richa Singh, CEO & Co-founder, Blogchatter, a blogging and media platform told Moneycontrol.
She added that it would be far-fetched to think that the endorsement game would change for the para-athletes post the medal wins.
"I won't see a huge wave of change where brands will line up for the para-athletes but even if there are two three pitches that will be a huge win," she added.
In fact, she thinks that if brands tap into conversations in the next one month, some of the para-athletes could easily be reaching what an Olympic winner would command.
"Right now, Rs 15-20 lakh is a healthy bracket for them. They (Paralympic stars) can command that kind of a price," she said.
However, it won't be an all-the-year range, she said. "Right now the reach is there but will it sustain is debatable."
While not many para-athletes have bagged endorsement deals, some of them have associated with brands in the past.
Nutrition brand Herbalife had signed up Paralympic medalist HN Girisha in 2013. Girisha at 2012 Paralympics had won a silver in high jump.
In 2017, Deepa Malik who had bagged a silver in shot put at Rio Paralympics became the first para-athlete to endorse a soft drink brand after Mountain Dew got her on board. The brand had pictures of Malik pasted on the bottles of Mountain Dew.
Last year, Malik was also seen promoting edtech platform Whitehat Jr during the Indian Premier League (IPL).
And this year, automotive company MG Motor India announced Deepa Malik to be the voice of the personal AI assistant in its upcoming SUV – MG Astor.
Another para-athlete also bagged a brand deal this year. Sports nutrition brand Myprotein partnered with Palak Kohli who became the youngest para-badminton player in the world to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics 2021.
On brands associating with para-athletes, Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Angel investor, said that promoting and sponsoring para-athletes is a great way for a brand to support a cause and also build empathy with users.
"Mature businesses are realising that they need to build strong bonds with diverse communities and promoting para-athletic sports is a great way to do this."
And this is why he said, "Given India’s fine showing at the Paralympics, coming on the back of India’s best-ever medal tally at the Olympics last month, it should boost endorsements for para-athletes."
Darshan M, Founder of PLAY Sports, Media and Entertainment Pvt Ltd, and a sports marketer shared a different perspective.
"It's a great show by the Indian Paralympians and that it is good to see a lot of coverage for them which is encouraging. However, when it comes to brand signing, brands don't sign them for who they are but for their popularity and their fan following. There have been brands that have supported these (para) athletes but they are few and far between," he said.
Even Dr Sandeep Goyal, MD, Rediffusion, noted that "it is a case of awarding and rewarding them but unsure if there's a cogent enough to make them brand ambassadors."
When it comes to para-athletes, brand experts note that companies focus on their journey and the struggles they had to overcome.
Hence, Mathias noted that the sell-in pitch for the Paralympics has to appeal beyond pure commercial returns and reach out to the larger cause that many brands may be seeking.
"As social purpose and impact are becoming more and more important, many companies are seeking association with causes and appeals to special interest groups," he added.
Although limited, brands have been taking note of the Indian para-athletes.
During Rio Olympics, sportswear brand Adidas had released a campaign called 'odds' featuring Major DP Singh, India’s first blade runner.
But will team India's performance at Tokyo Paralympics will help them bag endorsement deals, that only time will tell.