Brands court World’s #1

31 Mar,2015


By Ravi Teja Sharma & Nandini Raghavendra


Winning the Indian Open Super Series and being ranked No.1 player, have changed Saina Nehwal’s life in many ways. One of them is the 25-year-old badminton player’s brand status.


So much that sports management firm Kwan has got calls from an MCG brand, a two-wheeler company and a well-known mobile vendor aiming to explore opportunities to associate with Saina, according to CEO Indranil Das Blah.


Currently, Nehwal endorses just six brands at a rate of Rs 60-75 lakh for an annual contract. The big ones have stayed away, for reasons best known to them. But when you are a champion at 25 years and ranked No.1, the game changes.


“Getting to No. 1 in the world in any sport or discipline is an outstanding achievement and Saina has come across as a very focused and hard working individual. Her ranking merits an automatic spike, as she is the best known badminton player in the world and she represents India. So in general when one is looking for an outlier, she will be in the mix,” tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi said.


In fact, Bhupathi, who runs brand servicing agency Globosport, does not feel that Nehwal’s potential or brand value has been tapped fully. He feels she continues to get better with consistent results and there a lot of opportunities to monetise her brand.


Kwan’s Blah, who got Nehwal the Iodex endorsement, said that brand managers today have become intelligent about sports. Earlier it was only about cricket. He added that one of the problems with cricket today is that beyond MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli, there are no big options.


“In this context, Saina is bigger than some of the cricketers and her world No. 1 ranking is a big opportunity for her,” said Blah. So how much more can Saina Nehwal charge now? At least 20-25% says Vinita Bangard, CEO, Krossover Entertainment, who recently worked with Nehwal on a social media campaign for MobiKwik for the cricket World Cup. “She is very prompt, very decisive, flexible and a pleasure to work with, exactly what brands love,” added Bangard.


She said she was impressed with the way Nehwal, who was once in Bengaluru playing a match and had no 3G network on her phone, found a business centre and tweeted as promised. With over 6 lakh people following her, social media appeal for brands looking for a captive audience find Nehwal very apt.


Single tweets can get upto Rs 1-1.5 lakh for a star like Nehwal. Her father, Harvir Singh Nehwal, has a slightly different view. The senior Nehwal along with her handles all her contracts, be it brands or events or appearances. He said they will decide on an increase after looking at the brand. He strongly feels, “She’s a kid, let her just keep playing well. We are not interested in business right now.”


On the Rs 40-crore deal which Saina had signed with Rhiti Sports in 2012, he said they had terminated the contract. “They were a bit hesitant but we wanted to break it.


Though the deal is off, they were nice to say that if they find something that fits Saina, they will definitely try. As for Kwan, we are working with them. Iodex is a deal they got us,” the senior Nehwal said.


While Blah and quite a few of his ilk feel brand managers are moving away from cricket, Vinit Karnik, national director, sports and live events, at media buying firm GroupM ESP says in India only cricket sells. “Saina was always a big star in India but brands have not leveraged her. Getting to the top of the rankings in the world should ideally increase her brand value,” he said.


One of her biggest celebrity fans, actor Aamir Khan, says: “Saina has played consistently well for around 10 years now and that is a fantastic feat. I have been waiting for her to reach No. 1 position, and wish her greater heights and achievements in the coming years.”


Source:The Economic Times

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