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The clock appears to be ticking fast for 39-year-old Sachin Tendulkar. With every dismal performance on the cricket field, the buzz about his retirement only gets louder, with the batting maestro seemingly in no position to halt the chorus of voices raging against him.
While Tendulkar did indicate in a recent interview that he would consider retirement post the on-going Test series against England, the announcement by a younger Ponting (he is 37) that he will retire from international cricket a few days ago has put the spotlight firmly on the Master Blaster. Will he or will he not bring an illustrious career to its logical end? Even as the debate continues in TV, print and social media, there’s another question begging to be asked: What happens to the myriad brands that Tendulkar endorses? Will they stop signing him post retirement?
A look at international sporting icons suggests Tendulkar is on a safe ground. As Melroy D’souza, chief operating officer of celebrity and sports management firm Professional Managment Group (PMG) says, “Sachin is bigger than a cricketer.
His appeal goes beyond cricket. Therefore, while certain brands may decide to end their association with him once he stops playing, there will still be brands that will continue to work with him because of the legend that he is. These are the ones that will in all likelihood take a long-term view of him and utilise him not just in ads, but also, say, for the appeal that he brings beyond that into merchandising for instance.”
Tendulkar in the past has lent his name to a chain of restaurants that were promoted in partnership with Sanjay Narang of Mars. This was called off, however, with Tendulkar reportedly now interested in re-entering the business. Future Group, on the other, came up with Sach — which takes the first four letters of the batting mastro’s name — to promote its new brand of toothpaste. But experts say there could be more in the offing for those companies keen to exploit the brand appeal of the cricketer beyond traditional advertising.
Legendary basketball player Michael Jordan, for example, has a shoe line promoted by Nike under the brandname Jordan. The latter does sales in excess of a billion dollars in the US, second only to the company's flagship brand. Thanks to this and other endorsements such as one in Gatorade of Coca-Cola and Hanes, an underwear brand, Jordan lands up earning much more now — almost a decade after his retirement — than he did during his years as a sportsman. According to industry estimates, Jordan walks home with a pay packet of over $60 million (or Rs 325 crore), which is higher than the roughly $50 million (or Rs 270 crore) that he earned at the peak of his career.
Jordan has also lent his name to a series of basketball-inspired video games under the NBA2K moniker - popular among video-game enthusiasts in the US. The retired basketball player continues to inspire millions of people, especially impoverished black youth in the US, and is much sought after for events around the sport that made him what he is.
Another example of a sportsman who enjoys legendary status among brands despite retiring is Michael Schumacher. While the formula one driver, who is a seven-time world champion, has had a lack-lustre run in his second spell as a driver following his first retirement between 2007 and 2009, there are still brands that back him. A case in point is Swiss watch maker Audemars Piguet that appointed him their brand ambassador in 2010 — the year he came back to the racing circuit. Nearing the end of his second spell now, which will see him retire for good, brand experts say Schumacher’s appeal will simply not fade even though he will not be a fixture on the racing circuit next year. “He easily is the most recognisable name in formula one,” says
P M Balakrishna, chief operating officer, Percept Media. “This will obviously work to his advantage post retirement,” he says.
Tendulkar, who has represented his country for 23 years as a professional player, also enjoys a similar status: He easily is the most familiar name in cricket with a fan following that cuts across age-groups. He will be sorely missed, say experts, when he hangs up his boots. This void is likely to push brands to associate with him well after he has moved away from the spotlight. Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer, Kwan Entertainment and Marketing Solutions, says, “Once Sachin retires, he will continue to be a big draw for brands, the reason being his lack of visibility on the field. People are used to seeing him on the field. They will clamour for one glimpse of him post retirement.”
Tendulkar’s endorsement fees are also not likely to come down too soon post retirement. According to industry estimates, Tendulkar comes third after Salman Khan and Mahendra Singh Dhoni in terms of annual income from endorsements. He earns Rs 40 crore to Dhoni’s Rs 70 crore and Khan’s Rs 80 crore.
Per brand, Tendulkar charges nothing less than Rs 6crore — high, say experts, for a player who has peaked. He also has a slew of products on his endorsement list from Coca-Cola to Toshiba, Boost to Sunfeast and Royal Bank of Scotland among others.