Cricketing star Virat Kohli's unceremonious exit from the post of Captain for India's One Day International team might have a marginal impact on his brand image in the short term, marketing experts believe. With a brand valuation of over $250 million, Kohli is among the top brand endorsers in India.
His removal as the captain of India's ODI team has created quite a stir in the ad world- with some even re-evaluating his brand value and influential power. Kohli reportedly receives, on an average, Rs 10 crore annually for every brand he endorses. He endorses over a dozen major brands-from Valvoline to Puma and Audi, Uber, Great Learning and many others.
Sandeep Goyal, Chief Mentor, Indian Institute of Human Brands, said that Kohli is in trouble as far as his equity and brand value are concerned. However, he believes that Kohli’s recent form has been his biggest downer.
“He is no longer the match winner of the team. No big innings for a long time. The exit from short format captaincy is a setback but no big deal. If he starts scoring big again, the captain’s job won’t really matter. If the bat does not speak, brand Virat could be in serious trouble going forward,” he said.
Aarti Notiyal, Director Marketing for Bubble Communication (the agency works closely with various sports celebrities), said that reports of him being sacked will definitely impact his brand value – wherein certain brands may not continue with his tenure, some may not renew their association and the prospects may take some more time to evaluate whether he is the right face, right attitude to represent the brand.
However, she added that what is also very important is from here on; how Kohli and his team maintain or re-establish his positioning as a batsman and their communication strategy.
The corporate world and cricket in India – have often found synergies with it being a natural choice for brands to sign up the leader in the Indian cricket team to lead the affairs of the brand communication. This would instantly give the brand or a product multi-fold amplification, that would otherwise take several months or years at the very least.
Cricketers such as M S Dhoni have maintained their dignity while being a Captain and even after stepping down they continue to be the face of several new and old brands. Kohli has always portrayed himself as a fierce, aggressive player and now after being such a terrific batsman when he failed to deliver in the role of a captain, on numerous occasions, it would have been in his best personal and national interest to accept Rohit Sharma’s captaincy, added Notiyal.
Kohli did not voluntarily resign from his captaincy and Rishav Dubey, Co-founder, Moshi Moshi, said that this will further add to the brand perception of him being the perfect endorser of “hunger to be better and do better”.
However, having observed brands and how they go about their marketing investments, he believes that all the brands which were in the process of signing Kohli would stall to observe how the scenario affects his performance in the coming days. The brands that have used Kohli in their marketing communication as a leadership icon will now have to revisit their narrative.
Samit Sinha, Founder, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, doesn’t believe that the loss of ODI and T-20 captaincy will impact his brand value, or his earnings for that matter, at least not in the short term.
“A captain is not necessarily synonymous with the star player. Tendulkar had only a very brief stint as captain, but that did not diminish his celebrity status,” he said.
However, if Kohli repeatedly fails to perform with the bat and cannot deliver on what the public expects of him, then it will most certainly impact his brand value and reduce his earnings in the mid to long-term, Sinha added.
The recent ‘sacking’ may lead to a marginal decline in the valuation, but he is still miles ahead of the competitors across industries.
The fact that Kohli’s Instagram followership spiked from 171 million to 172 million post the announcement proves that he still has a strong influential power, said Dubey.
Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Investor, said that the controversy might result in a media storm, but in the long term will not have a major impact on his brand value.
“I think the current controversy of the change of India’s captaincy for the ODIs will not significantly impact Kohli’s brand value. For one, Virat is easily India’s most popular sports star with an estimated value of nearly $250 million. Then of course, is the fact that he is among the world’s best cricketers and is still at the peak of his career. Lastly, it's about his whole persona that has been built up over the years: one half of India’s best known celebrity couple; a caring husband who took time off during the birth of his daughter; a committed passionate and peak fitness-oriented athlete and increasingly a smart communicator who says the right things and is a role model for today's youth. Remember how he stopped endorsing certain categories that didn't fit into his values?” he said.
It is noteworthy that Kohli had stopped endorsing soft drink maker Pepsi, and fairness product brands to be seen as a socially responsible youth icon.