Ravichandran Ashwin ended 2016 as the top-ranked all-rounder in the world. The 30-year old from Chennai was also named ‘Player of the Year’ by the International Cricket Council (ICC). As he rides the crest of being among the most popular cricketers in the Indian national team at present, Ashwin has also reaped a very concrete benefit as well — he recently signed a brand endorsement deal with ITW Blitz.
ITW Blitz is the talent management arm of sports/media/entertainment company ITW. Among other sportspersons, ITW Blitz also managed legendary cricketer Sir Vivian Richards as part of their portfolio.
Ashwin is the first cricketer from India to be signed on by the group. At a swish press meet in Chennai, Bhairav Shanth, the co-founder and director of ITW Blitz, talked about their latest ‘coup’: “Ashwin is currently the best all-rounder in the ICC list. He has a clean, non-controversial image and has an elegant mix of class and mass appeal that will work for all brands.”
Unsurprisingly, Shanth believes that Ashwin has ‘huge potential’ — in terms of numbers, he says the cricketer’s earnings could swell in excess of Rs 200 crores in just the next two years. Moreover Shanth said that Ashwin would be the highest endorsed cricketer in India by the end of 2017, and that ITW Blitz was looking at adding at least 15 additional brands to Ashwin’s kitty in that time.
Two hundred crores may seem like a huge amount, but that faith could well be justified.
In June of 2016, a report published by rediff.com noted that the Indian advertising industry has been “heavily skewed” in favour of batsmen. From Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly to MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, batsmen are the cricketers of choice when it comes to endorsing products, with a Harbhajan Singh as the rare exception. So Ashwin’s inclusion among the top-five cricket stars (for brand endorsements) was no small feat. In mid-2016, Ashwin was charging Rs 1.25-1.75 crore a year for each endorsement deal and had eight ongoing associations (including with Nike, Moov, Manna Health Mix, Specsmakers, Lounge Cricket, Ramraj Linen Shirts) — the most for a bowler in over a decade.
As per a report published by Sportskeeda, MS Dhoni’s brand endorsements are currently valued at around Rs 150 crores, with Virat Kohli coming a close second with Rs 130 crores. However, Kohli’s stock is expected to rise further with him being anointed the captain across all three formats of the sport.
Shanth says being named ICC Player of the Year is what will provide the biggest boost to Ashwin’s brand value. This should provide an impetus for the cricketer to move away from smaller south Indian brands and to snag some more major endorsement deals.
A top ad manager who deals with star endorsements, based out of South India, said: “The top two cricketers in the big league are former Indian captain MS Dhoni and current captain Virat Kohli. It is clear that Kohli has overtaken Dhoni, as he has more recall value and success on the field than others. Now what I hear from sources is that Ashwin is trying to move into the space vacated by Dhoni — and for that, he has to be more aggressive. 2017 is going to be an important year for sports personalities in terms of endorsements, as brand Dhoni fades away. ”
As per advertising strategists, Ashwin fits the bill to a certain extent as there is no real competition in popularity, as others like Jadeja, KL Rahul or newbie Karun Nair have miles to go.
Ashwin is already walking the talk.
At the event where his association with ITW Blitz was announced, while Bhairav Shanth was being asked (by the press) what would entice top brands to sign on Ashwin, the cricketer took the microphone instead, and said, “We are not here to discuss why brands want to sign us, we are here for responsible endorsing and we will decide whom we want to endorse.”
He already has a sizeable fan following on social media (he has over three million followers on Twitter alone) — and clout on these platforms is definitely a plus for brands.
Ashwin has a reputation for supporting worthy causes — whether it was through his recent tweet asking for responsible reactions to the ban on jallikattu, or his pledge to donate his eyes through his Ashwin Foundation. The real test for the cricketer, however, will be his performance in the four-Test series against Australia starting next month.
Updated Date: Jan 15, 2017 08:41 AM