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Zareen and Borgohain’s gold medal wins open up more endorsement doors ahead of Paris Olympics

As Indian sportswomen break stereotypes and inspire fans with the stories of the challenges they faced in building a career in sports, they open up the doors to more sponsorship deals.

March 27, 2023 / 06:13 PM IST
Boxers Lovlina Borgohain and Nikhat Zareen. Image Twitter nikhat_Zareen

Boxers Lovlina Borgohain and Nikhat Zareen. Image Twitter nikhat_Zareen

India’s star boxers Lovlina Borgohain and Nikhat Zareen's gold medal wins in the women’s World Boxing Championships (WBC) will create an impact on the endorsement world as more brands seek to increase their association with sportspeople.

While Borgohain grabbed her first gold at a world championship, Zareen has become the second Indian to win multiple gold medals at World Boxing Championships.

It is a packed calendar for athletes, noted Divyanshu Singh, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of JSW Sports.

"The biggest challenge for athletes is that they are not as visible as cricketers. Now, the good thing is that there are Asian games coming up, we had world championships concluding with Indians winning four golds. Then there is the Paris Olympics next year for which the qualification events will start happening. So, there will be lot of buzz and this kind of big events really help athletes," he said.

More brand endorsement offers will come to Borgohain, said Neerav Tomar, Managing Director of IOS Sports, the sports marketing firm that manages the boxer’s portfolio.

"Brands will come her (Borgohain's) way after this (gold medal win at WBC) and it also puts her as a medalist (candidate) for the Paris Olympics which brands will consider. People will also look at creating campaigns with her and other potential medal winners. So, there can be a joint collaboration of athletes that brands will opt for. We have a few endorsements with a few potential Olympic medalists," Tomar said.

Endorsement values 

Tomar added that while her performance was not strong, her third world championship medal was a leg-up in terms of endorsement and value.

"We were waiting for her performance to come up. CWG (Commonwealth Games) was an unfortunate loss. Now, we expect an uptick in both brand deals and endorsement fees.”

Tomar expects a 20-25 percent increase in Borgohain's endorsement fees. The athlete currently charges in the range of Rs 50-60 lakh for annual contracts. An Olympic medal will change her fortunes further, he said.

Borgohain has been associated with Adidas for long and other brands in her portfolio include Shyam Steel and ICICI Life Insurance, among others.

Zareen too is associated with Adidas along with other brands like Lifespan and NMDC, formerly known as National Mineral Development Corporation, among others. In terms of endorsement fees, she is estimated to charge a fee similar to Borgohain.

More brand engagement 

Sports marketers say that business is picking up for athletes.

"Our women athletes are breaking stereotypes and their human angle stories are inspiring and that's what brands are trying to strike a chord with," said Singh.

Thums Up, for its #HarHaathToofan campaign that commemorated 75 years of India’s independence, told Zareen's story -- how she made a career in a sport that was considered masculine and the challenges she faced.

Tomar noted that the digital world has opened more opportunities for even younger athletes who are not big stars because of the door to influencer marketing and digital marketing it opened up.

"The digital space has become large. We manage about 70 athletes and 35 are emerging players and on a daily basis there is a digital activity for them. We have seen a rise in digital and social media marketing for our athletes. For Olympic sports athletes, there is demand now. There was no market for them 5 years back," he said.

The sports marketer said that digital deals can be as small as little half Rs. 1 lakh and can go up to Rs. 1 crore.

"It depends on what the brands' requirements are. We keep getting queries for one post by our athletes. Brands will ask five of our athletes to do one product post. That's the kind of deals that are coming their way," Tomar said.

He added that health and fitness, nutrition and wellbeing brands were signing up athletes. New-age companies like fintech firm Cred are looking at engaging with athletes.

Rise of athletes 

The rise of athletes in the endorsement space has also led to sports celebrities increasing their share ofn the overall brand value of India’s top 25 most valuable celebrities.

Sports celebrities' brand value increased from $350 million in 2021 to $470 million, a 35 percent increase. Their overall share increased from 27.5 percent in 2021 to 29 percent in 2022.

"Significant growth came from non-cricket celebrities like (javelin thrower) Neeraj Chopra debuting in the list with over 25 brands in his portfolio, then PV Sindhu continuing to being in the list (top 25 list of most valuable celebrities by Kroll). Then athletes like Bajrang Punia, Mirabai Chanu continue to see growth in their brand portfolios and with the Paris 2024 Olympics coming in we will see another jump towards end of 2023 for non-cricket endorsements. Also, in the coming years we will have more women sports celebrities coming in with the launch of the WPL," said Aviral Jain, Managing Director of Valuation Advisory Services at Kroll.

Singh also said that with big events like the Women's Premier League (WPL) taking place this year, it saw potential for brand engagements for women cricketers.

"We saw brands wanting to do endorsement with Jemimah Rodrigues and Harmanpreet Kaur. We saw big uptick and rise in brands," he added.

Maryam Farooqui
first published: Mar 27, 2023 06:13 pm