Such an Enduring Endorser!

14 Nov,2013

 

By Hemant Kenkre

 

It’s a no-brainer to identify the one name that ploughs through the diversity of India and gets the nation together – cutting the various barriers of religion, caste, creed and socio-economic backgrounds. Twenty-four years after making his international debut, Sachin Tendulkar still gets top billing as he says his final hurrah at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium today.

 

Having known him and having watched him closely both on and off the field – I had the privilege of leading him, for the Cricket Club of India, in his first year in senior cricket tournaments in Bombay – one has seen his brand grow to an unmatched level from 1989 till date.

 

One has only to read any newspaper, surf a website or switch on the television or radio to understand the impact that this shy man has had on a country bereft of ‘real’ heroes. Sachin mania has been rocking India from the day that he announced his intention to retire from all forms of cricket.

 

What takes the best of Indian and international brands to invest in brand Sachin Tendulkar? Why do organizations pour millions of dollars on a 5-foot, 4-inch stocky man with a squeaky voice who came from a middle-class back ground? Why do parents lug their son’s cricket kitbags on the many maidans of India beseeching greedy coaches to make their ward the next Sachin? Brand Sachin connects across all demographics – from nine to ninety.

 

There is something about Sachin that endears the heart and builds an emotional bond with people that follow him. India always had sporting heroes like Dhyan Chand, Milkha Singh, Vijay Amritraj, Prakash Padukone apart from cricket legends Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev. The latter two had many endorsement deals but not at the maniacal level that is happening with Sachin – with brands sticking to their mascot in spite of him retiring from the game.

 

In 1989-90, I was associated with an advertising campaign that featured Sachin. The brand, Anja San, a bespoke tailoring outfit had featured legendary ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh and table wizard Zakir Hussain as their models. The late Varsha Bhosle, the brains behind the campaign, had identified Sachin as the next model and it was my job to get him to endorse the brand. Sachin had not completed even a year in international cricket and had not even played an international match in India. When queried why she had shortlisted him, Varsha said: “Wait and watch; you will see why I want him to endorse the product. There are cricketers and there is Sachin…”

 

The print campaign, one of Sachin’s first, was shot by noted photographer and ad-film maker Shantanu Sheorey who made me stand behind the camera and speak to Sachin so that he would be relaxed while facing the camera. The campaign created a stir when it was released in 1990 – after Sachin had scored his first century against England in Test cricket.

 

When Coca-Cola re-entered the Indian market in 1995 their biggest threat was Sachin Tendulkar endorsing rival brand Pepsi and not some rabble-rousing organisation gunning after MNC’s in India. Sachin’s “Boost is the secret of my energy,” was the successor to Kapil Dev’s “Palmolive da jawab nahi,” and precursor to the “Sehwag ki Maa” campaign. All being rustic, honest and completely believable.

 

Why have marketers preferred to bank on Sachin from 1990 till date? One remembers an incident that took place when the Indian selection committee sat down to pick the team for the Pakistan Tour in 1989. The panel knew Sachin was supremely talented and were worried to pick the 16-year old as he was bound to face baptism by fire with thunderbolts thrown at him by Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. “What if he fails?” was the question doing the rounds when the late Naren Tamhane, former India wicket keeper and part of the committee said: “Sachin never fails!” Wise words that marketers and brand managers believe in to date. 23-years on, one realises what Varsha meant…there are cricketers and there is Sachin!

 

P. S. Sachin did not charge any fees for the Anja San campaign

 

Hemant Kenkre, former cricketer, commentator and cricket-writer and communications practitioner, has captained Sachin Tendulkar for the Cricket Club of India (CCI).

 

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2 responses to “Such an Enduring Endorser!”

  1. Anand Desai says:

    Superb piece of dedication Hemant…. Kudo’s Sir

  2. Gaurav Laghate says:

    And cricket will never be the same again… Nice one Hemant, looking forwards for more behind the scene tit-bits…

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