Olympic sports to contribute more to brand endorsement pie in 2024

A total of 536 brand endorsement deals involved sports celebrities last year and nearly 380 of them were linked to cricket players, as per the GroupM ESP report

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Delhi: Expenditure on sports celebrity endorsements surged by 24% to Rs 927 crore in 2023 from Rs 749 crore in 2022, according to the GroupM ESP report.

As per the report, cricket dominated the landscape with endorsements totalling Rs 810 crore in 2023, marking a 27% increase, while emerging sports garnered Rs 117 crore, representing a 7% year-on-year growth.

The share of cricketer endorsements to the total across all sports was 87% in 2023, north of the 85% it recorded in the previous year. 

A total of 536 brand endorsement deals involved sports celebrities last year and nearly 380 of them were linked to cricket players. 

The higher average value of contracts involving India’s No.1 sport is evident in the fact that 87% of the monetary value came from a significantly lower share of cricketer endorsements in terms of the number of deals, highlighted the report.

2024 is the year of the Paris Olympics and expectations from India are high. GroupM expects Olympic sports to contribute more to the endorsement pie in 2024, and beyond too. 

GroupM wrote in the report, “Given all these factors, India will soon be leaving the Rs 1000 cr mark behind us as our athletes move forward in their onward journeys.” 

Former captain and generational talent Virat Kohli continued to be the star attraction for brands as he matched his performances at the batting crease with his characteristic free-scoring ways on the financial front. MS Dhoni, his predecessor as the Indian skipper, continued to find commercial success in a year in which he captained his IPL franchise to yet another trophy win. Team India skipper Rohit Sharma had led from the front around the world in 2023, as he too had a lucrative year. Virat, MS and Rohit- all three had signed up more than 30 brands last year, leading to a significant rise in their respective endorsement values. 

While these stalwarts continued to hold sway, the next generation of stars made considerable inroads here. Shubhman Gill, Hardik Pandya, Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul are among the cricketers who had major gains in 2023 – for the number of brands endorsed as well as in revenue terms too. 

Indian cricket always had a strong pipeline of emerging stars, and 2023 saw youngsters like Yashasvi Jaiswal and Rinku Singh keeping the endorsement scoreboard ticking. 

Women’s cricket has been on the rise and with the WPL seeing its inaugural edition being played last year, GroupM expects an uptrend in the days to come. Among the female cricketers, the highest earners were Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Jemimah Rodrigues. 

Neeraj Chopra had a great year in 2023 with his famous victory at the World Athletics Championships held in Budapest, in addition to his wins at multiple prestigious competitions. Having won the Olympic Gold in 2021, he has firmly established himself as a world beater in the javelin throw. A few years back, such an achievement in track and field from an Indian would have been seen as beyond the realms of possibility. 

The report mentioned, “Neeraj is the toast of the sporting nation today, and in terms of brand endorsements, he is the highest earner outside of cricket. Today, he has 16 brands in his portfolio as he continues his winning journeys around the world.” 

The annual growth in emerging sports endorsements was a figure of 7% which is significantly lower than what the cricketers were able to achieve. 

Stating the lower growth figures, GroupM shared, “2022 was the year of the FIFA World Cup, and the famous win by the Argentine team, buoyed by Lionel Messi, is still fresh in memory. Indian brand Byju’s had signed up with Leo that year in a deal that made him their Global Brand Ambassador. This was a number that was difficult to match in 2023, and hence a single-digit growth percentage, albeit considerably lower than cricket, should be viewed as an encouraging sign.” 

Among female athletes, PV Sindhu has been the leading contributor for a few years now. 2023 saw no shift in that pattern as she continued to represent India meritoriously while smashing her way to the top of the endorsement chart for women. She was the ambassador for 14 brands in 2023, and her successes, on the court and from a commercial perspective too, serve as a reason for many young girls to pick up a badminton racket. The amazing stories of Neeraj, Sindhu and other athletes in emerging sports prove that if you chase excellence and back up your aspirations with the right efforts, then success will chase you.