According to GroupM ESP Sporting Nation report, the sports celebrity endorsement market in India has witnessed significant growth, with the athlete endorsement value reaching Rs 749 crore in 2022 - which is 20% higher than what these sports celebrities earned from brands in the previous year.
Even in 2020 when the pandemic caused considerable decline in levels of sporting activity, leading to degrowths all across, the sorting heroes had stayed in touch with the masses, through the power of digital and social media. In fact, athlete endorsement was the only area which recorded a gain that year.
The total endorsement value involving cricketers in 2022 added up to Rs 637 crore, which is 85% of all sports, coming at a growth of 18% over 2021.
According to the report, as many as 381 deals involved cricket players, which works out to three-fourth of the total count. So, with 75% of all deals delivering a higher share of value, the premium commanded by the famous Indian cricketers is evident. In fact, the average deal value involving cricketers is 1.8 times that of athletes from emerging sports.
Talking of specific individuals in the team sport, recent years have seen Virat Kohli dominating the brand endorsement space in Indian sports, building a substantial lead over the others, in terms of earnings. He is followed by the person from whom he took over the stewardship of team India, MS Dhoni and then by the one he handed over the baton to, Rohit Sharma. All three of them are currently throwing their weight behind more than thirty brands each- while Virat added 3 new brands to his portfolio, ‘Captain Cool’ picked up 5, while the ‘Hitman’ got 8 new endorsement deals in 2022.
Other team India stars like Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan are also among the big scorers in the endorsement space, be it in terms of overall revenue, or with respect to acquisition of new brands too.
Cricketers with a more recent ascendancy to the world of stardom, like Surya Kumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, can be considered to be the new favourites of brands.
Among women, Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj and Smriti Mandhana were the leaders, and with the rollout of the franchise format in India.
There was an upward trend in the area of brand endorsements in 2022 as there were 124 deals in sports other than cricket, delivering a total value of Rs 112 crore. This accounts for 15% of the total revenue across all sports, including cricket. With a growth rate of 30% over 2021, Emerging Sports outdid the No. 1 sport on YoY terms, which can in fact be viewed as a correction of sorts if we consider how the relative shares between cricket and other sports varied since the onset of the pandemic.
In 2019, Emerging Sports had contributed to 15% of total endorsement value, which had slipped down in the past couple of years, even to single digit shares at one point in time, before bouncing back to earlier levels in 2022.
With 12 brands under his belt, Neeraj Chopra had the longest throw among non-cricketers, while PV Sindhu smashed harder than any other female athlete from India, with 11 brands in her portfolio, as per the report.
In a major deal that contributed significantly towards the overall performance of non-cricketing
sports, EdTech brand Byju’s scored a brilliant goal by roping in football icon Lionel Messi as its
Global Brand Ambassador.
Furthermore, the report stated, "2022 was a very fruitful year for us, with a tremendous showing at the Commonwealth Games which had very proud moments for all of us. In addition, we also had really satisfying victories across a wide spectrum of disciplines like Track and Field, Boxing, Shooting and Wrestling, among others."
According to Utsav Malhotra, Chief Operating Officer, Noise, "As a leader in the smart wearables space, championing fitness and active lifestyle sports is clearly the most befitting marketing bet for us. Stars like Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant and Rohit Sharma have enabled us to connect with the youth with strong affinity for sport and helped reach our audiences and land the brand message more effectively. Clearly it’s been a well thought out strategy that has worked for us to engage with our consumers."
Geeta Vatnani, Business Director, GroupM ESP, said that the sports endorsement market
in India is projected to explode and this will only grow in the coming years, driven by the
increasing interest of brands in using sports as a platform for their marketing and communication strategies.
"Sports celebrities have a unique ability to transcend geographical and cultural boundaries, making them highly sought-after brand ambassadors with a pan-India appeal. Their popularity and influence cut across markets, making them an attractive proposition for brands looking to reach a wider audience," she added.