Sandeep Goyal
Aug 27, 2018

Blog: PV Sindhu now next only to Virat Kohli

The author studies the new pecking order in brand endorsements for using sports stars

Blog: PV Sindhu now next only to Virat Kohli
Last year journalist Ratna Bhushan wrote a piece in The Economic Times dated 6 March 2017 headlined, ‘PV Sindhu is now the no. 2 player in endorsements’.
The report went on to say, ‘In a male-dominated cricketing nation starved of broader sporting success, PV Sindhu stands out both for her choice of sport and victories on the world stage. The Olympics shuttler is now setting records away from the badminton court, making more cash for each day of endorsing brands than did the former India skipper MS Dhoni. The 21-year old, who won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics last summer, now stands second on the leader-board of Indian sports-earners for each day of endorsements, behind only cricket captain Virat Kohli. Her rise to the top 5 in world badminton rankings has simultaneously raised her endorsement value, vaulting her past Dhoni and her female sporting peers such as Saina Nehwal and tennis ace Sania Mirza. “Sindhu is now ahead of both other woman athletes and non-cricketers,” said Tuhin Mishra, managing director and co-founder at Baseline Ventures, the sports management firm representing the Olympics medal-winner. “We are looking at creating long-term equity for her with brands and are ensuring that her playing time is not impacted by endorsements.” According to Mishra, Sindhu’s current endorsement fees are about Rs 1-1.25 crore a day. Kohli is learnt to charge Rs 2 crore from brands for a day, higher than what Dhoni charged at his peak. In August 2016, Sindhu became the first Indian woman athlete to win the Olympic silver: Since then, her fees have increased to more than Rs 1 crore from Rs 15-25 lakh, two officials in the talent management space said. Sindhu has already signed deals of about Rs 30 crore in the past five months as part of the three-year Baseline deal guaranteeing a minimum of Rs 50 crore.’ 
Bhushan’s report was well researched but did not quite get the attention it deserved. Watchers of the endorsement advertising space finally woke up to what The Economic Times had covered a year ago when the Forbes list of highest earning female athletes was released last week. The list ranks Sindhu at number seven with earnings of US$8.5 million, one spot below American tennis player Venus Williams (US$9.5 million) and one spot above Romanian tennis player Simona Halep (US$7.7 milion), who is currently No. 1 in the world in tennis rankings. For the Hyderabad girl, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, her meteoric rise up the world rankings is obviously a proud moment.
PV Sindhu’s on-court winnings last year totaled US$0.5 million but her off-court earnings through endorsements brought her a hefty US$8.0 million. 
Forbes - Highest earning female athletes

Forbes - Highest earning female athletes



Prize money



1. Serena Williams (USA)


$62,000 (£48,050)

$18m (£13.9m)

$18.062m (£14m)

2. Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)


$6m (£4.6m)

$7m (£5.4m)

$13m (£10m)

3. Sloane Stephens (USA)


$5.7m (£4.4m)

$5.5m (£4.2m)

$11.2m (£8.6m)

4. Garbine Muguruza (Spain)


$5.5m (£4.2m)

$5.5m (£4.2m)

$11m (£8.5m)

5. Maria Sharapova (Russia)


$1m (£773,500)

$9.5m (£7.3m)

$10.5m (£8.1m)

6. Venus Williams (USA)


$4.2m (£3.2m)

$6m (£4.6m)

$10.2m (£7.9m)

7. PV Sindhu (India)


$500,000 (£387,000)

$8m (£6.2m)

$8.5m (£6.6m)

8. Simona Halep (Romania)


$6.2m (£4.8m)

$1.5m (£1.1m)

$7.7m (£6m)

9. Danica Patrick (USA)


$3m (£2.3m)

$4.5m (£3.5m)

$7.5m (£5.8m)

10. Angelique Kerber (Germany)


$3m (£2.3m)

£4m (£3.1m)

$7m (£5.4m)

Sindhu’s exploits on and off the court are even more commendable when you look at interesting statistics like the fact that Sindhu earned more prize money than Serena Williams last year. This of course was a bit of an anomaly because Williams earned a mere US$62,000 from prize money because she took a 14-months lay off from the sport because of her pregnancy. Nevertheless, a fact is a fact! Yes, the fact also is that Serena pocketed a cool US$18.0 million in endorsement money last year despite having been on a sabbatical from tennis. Williams has more than a dozen sponsors, including Nike, Intel, Audemars Piguet, JPMorgan Chase, Lincoln, Gatorade and Beats.
Only 16 athletes on the planet made more than Williams over the past 12 months from endorsements, and she made twice as much off the court as any other female athlete. It also goes without saying that were Williams to win the US Open next week, she will take home a cheque of US$3.8 million, an amount unimaginable in badminton.
For Sindhu, success off-court has followed success on-court. She won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics in 2017, and then again a silver at the 2018 World Championships. This was followed by an individual silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and a team gold too. Her success in the game brought in sponsors that include Bridgestone Tyres, sports drink Gatorade, pain reliever ointment Moov, online fashion store Myntra, Nokia, Panasonic, honey producer APIS Himalaya, herbal health drink firm Ojasvita and the Bank of Baroda. She is also a brand ambassador for both the Central Reserve Police Force and Vizag Steel. She has also helped support communication in the past for the Government’s Goods and Services Tax (GST).
What Forbes perhaps did not take into account was that post her return from Rio, PV Sindhu was lavished with cash prizes from different state governments and government institutions totaling Rs. 13 crore! She also received a prime parcel of land each from the Andhra and Telangana state governments. And, the Hyderabad Badminton Association gifted her a luxury BMW car!
Sindhu has left her two prime competitors, Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza, far far behind in the sweepstakes. Sania Mirza started her endorsement career with Tata Tea. Her repertoire over the years included GVK Industries, Sahara, Atlas Cycles, Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh, Kaloree 1 and being 'Brand Ambassador' of Telangana.
Saina Nehwal too has had her supporters amongst brands. She has endorsed Airtel, Fortune Plus Oil, Herballife, Titan, Usha Fan and Top Ramen Noodles. Sania is now in the family way and may not have much appetite for endorsements. Saina, now 28, is getting close to her best-before date. Sindhu really has no other significant competitors amongst sportswomen in India. 
Much like Virat Kohli, 'Brand PV Sindhu' has to fight competition off-court against stars from Bollywood. Her prime tussle for brand endorsements is really against Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Shraddha Kapoor and to a much lesser extent Kangana Ranaut. In recent times, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Preity Zinta Goodenough and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja have receded from the advertising scene because of marriage. Anushka Sharma Kohli too got married recently but impact of that is still to be seen. Katrina Kaif has largely faded out from A-grade movies. Priyanka Chopra has been spending more and more time abroad and has therefore lost out on local endorsements. The likes of Sonakshi Sinha, Jacqueline Fernandes, Ileana D’Cruz and Kriti Sanon have never really caught the fancy of advertisers. It is actually very creditable that Sindhu who can obviously not match the Bollywood beauties in the looks department has actually won endorsement duties purely based on performance and personality. 
Sindhu has also done well compared to women cricketers who showed some promise after the last World Cup. But the likes of Harmanpreet Kaur, Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Poonam Raut and Smriti Mandhana never really got any visibility with brands, despite much talk and much expectations. Even Deepa Karmarkar, the gymnast, did not merit a single brand endorsement. The Phogat sisters got rave reviews in Dangal, the movie, but actually never cashed any of that goodwill with brand ambassadorships. This only goes to show that sportswomen find it very very hard to win favor with brand managers. And Sindhu’s achievements, and success, are therefore even more laudable. 
PV Sindhu is just 23. Realistically, she can be playing and winning for another five years or a bit more. Many more brands should look at her for what she represents: success, grit, determination, guts and glory. Wherever the requirement of a brand goes more than skin deep, Sindhu is turning out to be a viable and bankable option. 
Sandeep Goyal is a PhD in Human Brands from FMS-Delhi.  
Campaign India

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