A 151-run partnership between captain MS Dhoni and deputy Virat Kohli helped India take a 2-1 lead over New Zealand in the on-going ODI series. At one point, Kohli stepped on the pedal and went past his captain on the cricket field last night. And that seems to reflect what's happening off the field, on the endorsements front.
On the other hand, Dhoni’s biopic MS Dhoni - The Untold Story has been a huge success, amassing the second highest collections for a Bollywood movie this year, according to reports. Dhoni may be past his prime as brand endorser, say industry watchers. But others underline that as a brand, Kohli has some way to go before reaching Dhoni's stature.
The endorsement game
Brand expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults, Harish Bijoor, said, “Kohli is the numero uno star when it comes to the cricketer as brand endorser. His endorsements are all about ‘today’ brands. Brands that have signed him on just now, or a few years ago, with the intent of punting on a rising star who cannot go wrong. To an extent Kohli is the rising star and Dhoni the setting sun in terms of brand endorsements.”
He added, “Dhoni is over-exposed as well. Brands love some degree of under-exposure as well to make true-blue impact. Kohli's advantage is also the fact that he prospers in a market where the valuation of a brand endorser is at its peak. In sheer brand value terms, the value of brand Kohli is to that extent much ahead of Dhoni. The excitement is of course in the fact that Kohli will rule the roost for the next five years at least.”
Navonil Chatterjee, CSO, Rediffusion Y&R, explained, “Yes, the film (The Untold Story) has been successful, but if you keep that aside, the brands who are taking in new ambassadors, are looking at Kohli. Captains in India have a shelf life. People are believing Kohli is the next big thing. The film was a new wind to Dhoni’s sail, but I am not sure how many brands will come in for endorsements post it. The film showed he’s a winner and was family material. Parents are seeing Dhoni in their children. People saw him as a role model. But he is definitely past his prime as brand ambassador."
Chatterjee added, “People like characters like him. He’s (Kohli) coming out on top. He spoke about his relationships, then defended her (his ex-girlfriend) even after the separation and those things have a value. He has age on his side too. Right now, if you look at it, there are not many role models and brand ambassadors. Cricket only has Kohli and Dhoni.”
A captain's innings
Kawal Shoor, planner and founding partner, The Womb, contended that Dhoni and Kohli are at a 'similar level' right now, albeit their careers (as brand ambassadors) seeing different trajectories. "Kohli is on the up, and Dhoni’s on the decline, but at the moment, they’re at the same level,” he explained.
Shoor went on to add that a significant win for a team led by Kohli on the international stage will go onto help his career as brand endorser immensely.
“Indian captains who have led us big on a world stage (Kapil Dev and Dhoni) have been seen in different light. Whereas Sachin Tendulkar, was seen as a prodigy, and hence there was so much interest in him. Kohli is currently only the captain of the Test team. If he gets captaincy of the other formats, he will need to lead us to a win on the global stage to achieve the status Dhoni got,” added Shoor.