Mumbai : Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Tuesday announced his retirement from Test cricket bang in the middle of the Australia tour, catching many by surprise and fuelling speculation whether this is the beginning of the end of brand Dhoni.
“It’s clearly a succession plan in the making, so it will definitely impact the brand value of Dhoni in the short term,” says Indranil Das Blah, chief operating officer of sports management company, Kwan.
But he was quick to attach a caveat. “If India wins the World Cup next year, Dhoni will be bigger than ever. If not, we will begin to see the end of brand Dhoni, as we are certain that others like Kohli will rise.”
Santosh Desai, CEO of Future Brands, termed the Indian captain’s decision as the “evening of his career and his brand endorsements”, but certainly not the end. “Is this step one of his game plans?” asks Madhukar Kamath, group CEO and MD of Mudra. “It was becoming evident that Dhoni will pull out of Tests and from other formats after the World Cup. Hence brand Dhoni will not get affected till after the WC.”
Nandini Dias, chief executive officer of Lodestar Media, says that Dhoni has been the most successful captain for India and is currently the costliest sports endorser. “But sports icons quickly lose sheen when they stop playing. Since Dhoni will continue to play in the other two forms of cricket, which are more popular than Test cricket, it will not affect his endorsement or popularity yet.”
Dhoni has been one of the top brands in India over the past few years, endorsing close to 20 brands such as Pepsi, Reebok, Aircel, Gulf Oil, Star Sports, Reebok Amrapali Developers and many more. He reportedly charges between Rs 10 and Rs 12 crore for a brand, which is way more than the next best Virat Kohli who charges around Rs 6-7 crore for a brand. Dhoni is also known to have done a few revenue share deals.
Anupam Vasudev, chief marketing officer at Aircel, says their brand endorsement deal with Dhoni ended in October-November 2014 and they are still talking to him on renewing it. A PepsiCo India spokesperson said the company will continue its association with Dhoni. “We wish him all the best for his continuing leadership in the T20 and one-day formats.”
Dhoni’s decision to focus on the shorter versions of the game will extend the longevity of his brand, says Abraham Koshy, professor of of marketing at IIM-A. The dilemma for advertisers in India is that there are only two big names left in cricket at the moment — Dhoni and Kohli. There was a time — and not too long ago — when marketers were spoilt for choice with Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Virender Sehwag, and even Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh to pick from.