Dhoni’s Brand-I Value Is intact, but for how long?

22 Jan,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


So, BCCI dropped former Indian skipper M S Dhoni from the list of centrally contracted players. It was coming he has not been in the national team for some time since July 9 2019, when he played the World Cup semi-final. That is long enough a gap. Surprisingly, when so many questions are being raised, Dhoni has remained silent on his plans. Even Indian selectors and the board find themselves in murky waters with nothing much to comment on this mystical absence of words from him.

Naturally, the marketing community questions, if and will the Brand Dhoni be eroded. And the answers are not surprising.

Brand Dhoni has enough of stickiness. CSK has already indicated that he will be retained in 2021. IPL 2020 will be a test.

In 2014, when MSD retired from Test Cricket, there were thoughts expressed that his association with the shorter format will extend brand Dhoni longevity.

In fact, after five years, Brand Dhoni was performing spectacularly on screen. In 2016, Forbes, in its list of most valuable sports brands of 2016, stated that MS Dhoni’s brand value suffered a 48% year-on-year decrease. Dhoni, the only Indian on the list, was placed tenth in the athletes’ category.

In 2019, Dhoni retained his position as the second cricketer (Rank 12) after Virat Kohli, captain of the Indian cricket, who topped the powerful celebrity brand list of Duff & Phelps.

But then the aura for sports person remains as long as they play and in Dhoni case, it will not be different. And every time his name will come up in discussions, there is going to be a debate. However, everyone is expected to hedge his or her bets.

Brand-I is the image that rests in the eye of the audience. It like product image is the result of experience and expectations. If Dhoni the non-continues to perform with a similar level of success keeps his coolness quotient buzzing and dominates IPL, his brand value will remain intact. However, every player has his life cycle as a brand. Sooner or later, and as and when Dhoni retires from real cricket- the T20- national contention, with time, the brand will start having lesser meaning and attractiveness for the audiences.

We must park this question for the next 100 days, until IPL 2020, which is crucial for Brand Dhoni. IPL 2020 performance in many ways will define the difference between ‘IS’ and ‘WAS’.

We know Dhoni is unlike Gavaskar or Kapil or Sachin. Dhoni retired from Test cricket and one-days when people were still asking why is he retiring.

We have seen him take a calculated gamble in the field. So, only time will tell if his silence is another such masterstroke.

If IPL 2020 will bring him back into contention of the audience and their love for Captain Cool and his contribution. The flair of heart-stopping run chases and the sixes he fires. Maybe, Dhoni will reinvent. Whatever is in his mind, he has an obligation to his fans to reveal his plans.

One must be warned that time and audience memories have limited elasticity of excitement and association.

Brand Dhoni, will have to fight new faces, wins, memories and associations. And if the new breed of young cricketers delivers what we all believe they can, the slide for Brand Dhoni could be faster. And it is all about performing and dominating the audience mind space and nothing about the contract.

Dhoni knows how to keep relationships alive. How friendship and business associations need to be nurtured. In fact, I expect him to further reap the benefit of this deep associations and brand endorsements.

Dhoni has been slowly toying with his image we see in the advertising films. He seems to be conscious of the scripts he is picking or the way his persona is leveraged. There is a marked shift.

Now, it is more about logic, rationality, maturing with age, and someone who has your best interest in mind. And a lot non-cricket and yet he is evolving and seems convincing enough. His advertising films are also seeing a Dhoni who can somewhat act and is not merely a prop on the screen. Though in the process, the legendary story of his dream and resilience wonderfully captured in the movie is missed out. His radiating success and being an absolutely loveable team player is missed out. But that inspirational part has already been utilised and has no additional pull.


A sportsperson brand value is in her/his earnings, minus the average income of that sport’s Top 10 athletes.



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