Millennium Post

Media has gone crazy over Sachin

India has not produced a world-beater youth celebrity since its independence. Hokey maestro Dhyan Chand and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar are probably the only exceptions. The celebration of a rare individual gold by an Indian in Olympics by Abhinav Bindra in shooting was short lived as he failed to repeat the feat in successive global meets.

Sachin Tendulkar has been a youth icon of the same class as Pele, Roger Federer, Michael Jordon, Tiger Woods, Lionel Messi, Christiano Ronaldo, Michael Schumacher, Usain Bolt, Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Tomy Hawk, Yao Ming, George ‘Babe’ Ruth, Bruce Lee, Mohammad Ali, Sergei Bubka and David Bekham in their respective areas of excellence. All of them have millions of fan following across the world. Therefore, it is no surprise that 41-year-old Tendulkar has consumed more media and entertainment space in India than any other local and global event since he declared on 10th October his resolve to retire from cricket after his 200th test match in Mumbai, his home turf, against West Indies, later this month.

The massive tribute to Tendulkar is a conscious attempt by the media and entertainment industry, including advertising and marketing, to ignite passion among the country’s youth and aspiring sportspersons to strive to emulate the cricketing legend and become global icons with international fan following for very selfish business reasons. Because, celebrity endorsers of products and services bring in their train massive consumer support out of their large ardent fan following. The advertising and marketing world thrives on such celebrity endorsers. It benefits all – industry in terms of sales, consumers in terms of psychological satisfaction, ad firms in term of billing and celebrity endorsers or brand ambassadors in terms of large fee income.

India’s media and entertainment industry had long waited for a world-class lasting local youth icon who as brand ambassador could contribute substantially towards sustained expansion of its consumer base, sales and bottom line. However, it was not to be until Tendulkar’s lasting appearance for nearly a quarter of a century in the world of cricket, breaking one after another batting records held by other global legends in the game. He helped cricket become India’s most watched game as the country’s cricketers brought one after another international laurels by defeating other top national teams beginning with the first world cup win in England under the captaincy of all-rounder Kapil Dev. As a game, cricket in India has produced more brand ambassadors than any other fields of entertainment, barring cinema, which has traditionally boasted the highest share of brand endorsers. Even overseas cricket celebrities such as Bret Lee, Steve Waugh, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Chris Gayle and Kumar Sangakkara have been involved in endorsing Indian brands.

Profile and popularity of brand ambassadors are crucial to marketing success of products and services across the world. What may have probably contributed to India’s generally slow economic growth syndrome, except for the decade, 2001-10, is inadequate marketing push despite a low double-digit annual expansion of advertising expenditure by industry. The marketing push may have also suffered due to big shortage of high-profile and highly popular celebrity endorsers. Unlike elsewhere in the world, where a big celebrity is rarely engaged to endorse more than one big brand, a celebrity in India endorsing half a dozen or more large brands is a common sight. This invariably reduces the celebrity impact on brand promotion. A celebrity is not exclusively identified with a brand. Corporate brand managers and ad agencies, who are aware of this undesirable aspect of multiple brand endorsement by a single celebrity, are generally helpless about it because of the big shortage of youth icons.

There is a huge dearth of rising and also lasting celebrities even in India’s most watched Bollywood cinema barring a few like Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Khanna and Aishwarya Rai. Consumers are often tired of seeing the same celebrity endorsing several brands over a period – from soaps, shampoo, detergents, cosmetics, perfumes, fizzy drinks, alcoholic beverages, automobile, water pumps, deodorants, garments and fashion wear to instant noodles, vests and under wears. Such things are unthinkable in the developed market.

Does brand Sachin have any big post-retirement plan to cash in on the cricketing icon’s global celebrity status, which has earned him a personal net worth of US$ 160 million (nearly Rs. 1,000 crore), the highest for any Indian sportsman? Will he use the fund and his famous name to brand-launch a signature food chain, sports equipment retail stores, spa, branded fashion wears or perfumes? Rather unlikely, given the cool, calculative and conservative nature of generally risk-averse Tendulkar. Those characteristic traits have helped Sachin hit so many centuries and earn an iconic status in world cricket as a habitual record hunter. By choice, he may not join the ranks of David Bekham, flaunting signature Bekham brand in promoting clothing design, hair styles, perfumes, cosmetics, health and film production, Tiger Woods, Jennifer Lopez (JLo), homemaker Martha Stewart or Oprah Winfrey – the celebs who ultimately went into promoting and endorsing their own branded wares.

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