PV Sindhu's appointment to Andhra Pradesh state govt marks increasing brand value after Olympic medal
If the governments of the day have been generous, the corporate sector too has taken to PV Sindhu big time after her podium finish in Rio.
She lives in Telangana capital Hyderabad but has got a job in Andhra capital Amaravati. All she can do is to blame it on Rio!
Ten months after she won the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics, the pot of gold continues to brim over for PV Sindhu. The Andhra Pradesh Assembly on Tuesday went the extra mile to amend the state public services Act to pave the way to appoint the 21-year-old badminton player as a Group 1 officer in the state government. Sindhu, who is currently employed by Bharat Petroleum, will be appointed as a deputy collector in the Andhra government.
In fact, both Telugu states, eager to claim Sindhu as their own, went overboard in showering financial goodies on her after her podium finish last year. The Telangana government gave her a cheque of Rs 5 crore while Andhra gave her Rs 3 crore. Last week, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao personally handed over the papers allotting a 1000 square yard plot to her.
If the governments of the day have been generous, the corporate sector too has taken to Sindhu big time. She is now the second-highest paid sportsperson in brand endorsements, after Virat Kohli. Sindhu commands a price of between Rs 1 crore to 1.25 crore a day. Compare this to Kohli, who is almost 100 per cent more at around Rs 5 crore.
"Sindhu's brand value has increased almost 50 per cent after August last year. She has been consistent in the tournaments post Olympics and that shows Rio was not a flash in the pan. Her world ranking has surged," says R Ramakrishnan, director, Baseline Ventures, the sports management firm that represents Sindhu.
Apart from her performance on court, which included winning the China Open and the India Open, it also has got to do with her personality. She is articulate, exudes a natural charm and the fact that badminton is now well covered on television means the recall factor is better and she is top of the mind as far as her on-court exploits are concerned.
It was Saina Nehwal who opened up badminton for brands, especially after her bronze in the 2012 edition of the Olympics and subsequently becoming world number 1. But with injury taking its toll and age catching up, the corporates find the brand equity of Sindhu more appealing. But the more important question from a country point of view is whether the focus on Sindhu has helped Indian badminton?
Yes and no. While the player's presence on television makes her a role model, the corporates are risk-averse when it comes to investing in a work in progress. Brands do not invest in a growth story but only in a success story. Just like it was a year before Rio, when none of the corporates who were approached by Sindhu's managers wanted to touch her with a badminton racquet. They displayed short-sightedness in reading her potential, with their response often bordering on scoff. When Sindhu entered the finals at Rio, those who had rejected her had to eat humble pie and reopen channels of communication with the champion's managers.
Not that the Sindhu experience has made any of them wiser and less shallow in their understanding of sport. There is still a reluctance in investing in any of the male badminton players — be it a Kidambi Srikkanth or a Sai Praneeth or a HS Prannoy. This, despite being told by people who understand the sport that by ignoring Srikkanth, they could well be missing out on a world champion. This has resulted in badminton in India being equated only with a Sindhu and a Nehwal, ignoring the fact that Srikkanth and Praneeth set up the first-ever all-Indian final at the Singapore Open last month.
Even with Sindhu, there is a tendency to balk at what she expects monetarily, comparing her to Bollywood actors. FMCG brands in particular see actors as better ROI (return on investment), as they have at least three releases in a year and figure in film glossies periodically. In contrast, the risk element is far higher in a Sindhu.
The Indian cricket-loving population also needs to be more educated about badminton as a sport so that it understands the difference between a Super Series event, a Grand Prix or a Premier Badminton League.
Managers also have to gauge how much is too much so that her off-court appearances for brands do not eat into her practise time, thereby affecting her on-court performance. With just about 10 brands in her kitty now, her managers estimate not more than three weeks in a year will be devoted to shooting for ads and stage appearances.
What could help in inspiring more young girls to take to the sport is a biopic on Sindhu that actor Sonu Sood is planning. The movie would focus on what it took to make Sindhu a champion. Interestingly, there will be an overdose of badminton with a film being made on Nehwal's life as well. The rivalry between the top two Indian players will only get bigger, literally.
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