Even if films like ‘Dangal,’ ‘Chak De! India’ and ‘Mary Kom’ have put the names of women sportspersons in shining letters on the silver screen, are Indian women sports stars really getting their fair share in brand endorsements? With cricketer Mithali Raj’s deal with Rio Tinto diamonds fresh in our minds, we decided to explore how Indian women in sport fared as far as brand endorsements go.

The Endorsement Story So Far

  • Harmanpreet Kaur bagged a Bat Endorsement Deal with CEAT.
  • Smriti Mandhana went for skin care product Vaseline and also became Bata’s new brand ambassador​.
  • Sania Mirza has endorsed brands including Adidas and Emami, while Saina Nehwal chose Fortune oil and Yonex sports.
  • Mary Kom also endorses the healthcare brand Herbalife while Sakshi became the brand ambassador for Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign of the Haryana Government.
  • A 2017 report claims, PV Sindhu, in her year of glory, made more money for each day of endorsing brands, beating the former India skipper MS Dhoni. When the 21-year old won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics, she became a household name. And, eventually marked as the second on the leader-board of Indian sports-earners for each day of endorsements, behind only current cricket captain Virat Kohli. Her rise even surpassed fellow sporting champions such as Saina Nehwal and tennis ace Sania Mirza.
  • PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik have led to non-cricket endorsements growing by 83.5% from Rs 42 crore in 2015 to Rs 77.1 crore in 2016, according to a GroupM ESP – SportzPower report.
  • Sakshi Malik signed two brands after Rio and reportedly made about Rs 3.5 crores.

“Women are definitely creating their own space in sports but to understand the concept of endorsement, we need to first understand the variable factors attached to it. This question won’t have a ‘yes or no’ kind of a reply,” says Arshi Yasin, Co-Founder of The Bridge to SheThePeople.TV.

Factors that Influence Endorsements 

Arshi believes, “A brand endorses a player with an expectation of visibility and goodwill which the brand will fetch from that player’s fan following and audience base. A brand is not doing a charity.”

Be it PV Sindhu or Sakshi Malik, it was after their success at Rio that they made it to the pro list. There is always a fluctuation in the endorsement rankings based on how the players are doing. Arshi claims, “It won’t be fair to compare both men and women sportsperson’s endorsement deals on the same weighing scale because the market is not mature for it.”

“It won’t be fair to compare both men and women sportsperson’s endorsement deals on the same weighing scale because the market is not mature for it.” -Arshi Yasin

 Other Sports Vs Cricket

“In the Off Roading Sport, I don’t see too many men itself getting sponsorships or endorsements. The percentage of women participating in this sport is very minuscule, so sponsorship and hen endorsements will take a long time to fall into place. It is only when this sport is popularised that more women will participate and get their due credit. Once this happens, I am sure there will be companies forthcoming to sponsor a woman off-roader, post which the endorsements will follow,” says Sapna Gurukar, an off-roading racer.

Brand Value Of Sportstars

We asked Sports Journalist Sarah Waris to share her view on the subject.  She claims,”It would actually be rather naive to compare the kind of success and adulation that the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni receive in India at the moment with any other athlete in the country, be it male or female. Hence, by constantly comparing the wages from brands that the aforementioned cricketers receive with any other player, we are not only building ourselves up for disappointment but are also talking of a disparity that will take years to iron out.”

READ: No Coverage For India Vs. SA; Apathy Towards Women’s Cricket Continues

Key Takeaways

  • Success and Fandom are proportional to performance and fan following which brings a sports celebrity endorsements.
  • Beyond gender, women make substantial money through endorsements when they are on a high in their sport.
  • The big money in India continues to chase male cricketers. Even after retirement, Sachin Tendulkar is still a noticeable face on TV.
  • After winning the medals in Olympics 2016 at Rio, athletes like PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar rose to fame and gained more attention from several big brands.
  • Sania Mirza’s ascent in women’s doubles tennis and worldwide fame has previously put her in the same endorsement bracket as cricketers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan.
  • Less visibility for other sports such as hockey or kabaddi is still in the picture since neither the sport nor any athletes in the circuit have made any major impact on brand endorsements.

“It is unfortunate but cricketers and that too male cricketers have a fan following that is almost impossible to replicate. Established male Indian sportsmen like Leander Paes, Baichung Bhutia, Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Singh too have been unable to achieve the brand value that the cricketers enjoy, and thus, expecting the women athletes to get as much as Kohli or Dhoni is in all sincerity asking for a little too much,” Sarah added.

“We are not only building ourselves up for disappointment but are also talking of a disparity that will take years to iron out.”

Waris further expressed, “Over the years, as more and more women are enjoying success on the field, we are witnessing more brands signing them up. After PV Sindhu and Sakshi Malik returned home with Olympic medals, there were companies who cashed in on their fame to shower them with a number of contracts. Players like Saina Nehwal and Sania Mirza have received tremendous fame in this department and have come close to charging what most cricketers charge per ad.”

 “Brands will run after success.” – Sarah Waris

“Till a year ago, when someone like Smriti Mandhana was a relatively unknown, expecting her to be flooded with calls from companies would have been foolish. Now, since she has had an almost perfect World Cup and has pushed through to make a name, brands, no matter how many in number are reaching out to her. Their value in this domain depends on how well they perform consistently over a period of time and it is thoroughly encouraging to see more and more women come forward to make India proud,” she concluded.

Also Read:  At last, gender parity in daily allowances for women’s and men’s cricket teams

More Stories By Ria Das

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