King of endorsements and the CSK stigma...!

MS Dhoni, Captain Cool, was the only Indian Sportsman brand to be in Forbes’ List of the world’s most valuable athlete brands that was announced in October 2014. He was ranked 5th with a brand value of $20 million in 2014, a bit lower than $21 million in the previous year.

As per the reports, he is paid Rs. 12-14 crore per annual brand endorsement deal. He endorses brands across sectors and at the last count was endorsing close to twenty brands across categories. Among them, Aircel, TVS Motor, Pepsi, Orient PSPO, Videocon, Reebok, Boost, Gulf Oil and Siyaram.

And now a biopic on him is in the making. It is being produced by Fox Star Studios in association with Inspired Entertainment, promoted by Dhoni's management agency Rhiti Sports. When one heard last, the producers were hopeful of ranking in Rs.30 crore via tie-ups with brands endorsed by the cricketer.

For the longest time, he has been in the news for all the right reasons. First questions on brand Dhoni’s market value were raised when he quit Indian test team as the captain last year. When India lost in World Cup semi-finals, the question popped up again.And then team India had the misfortune of losingOne Day series in Bangladesh.Virat Kohli – MS Dhoni debate came to the fore.
And now, Chennai Super Kings has been banned for twoyears.

Brand Dhoni, one of the most iconic brands in India, has so far come unscathed from any loses or controversies hitting the teams he has captained.  Would he emerge unaffected yet once again or would the tables turn this time around?

Adgully spoke to a number of stalwarts from the industry on the issue. A sizeable number believes that Dhoni is too big a brand to be impacted by the controversy; others believe that he won’t be impacted unless the court names him. However, there are a few who believe that he would be impacted, if not in the long turn at least for now.

Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consultants Inc., “I do believe Dhoni as the captain of CSK would get impacted. He has led the team from the front and is seen to be a dominant symbol of CSK. His brand image will absorb some flak for sure on this count, if not for any other.”

Deep Banerjee, Independent Marketing Consultant "With the recent banning of CSK and RR, even fence-sitters (of the cricket world) have started taking a fresh look at the controversy. The aam-junta's perception of Dhoni has started taking a beating. Brands might be a bit apprehensive of having Dhoni (the captain of scam-tainted CSK) as their brand ambassador."

Tuhin Mishra, Managing Director, Baseline, “Unless his name comes up later in the probe, CSK's disqualification will not have a bearing on Dhoni’s personal brand value. If he joins another team, it would be loved by Cricket fans the same way as they loved CSK. In fact, a lot of people are CSK fans because of Dhoni. His brand value has not been dented.

“Dhoni is a brand with a mass appeal. This also translates into the fact that he is one of the most bankable stars when it comes to endorsements. His brand value will sustain till another crop of superstars come along.”

Amitava Mitra, Director & CEO, BEE Advertising, “The recent IPL controversy surrounding the Chennai Super Kings and Mayappan, and Rajasthan Royals and Raj Kundra will have no negative image impact on the players of these teamsand neither on Brand Dhoni.It is a different issue, if any direct connection or involvement of any player with the two accused and the betting and corruption charges is found out. While Dhoni is close to Srinivasan, Mayappan, India Cements and is the face of the Chennai Super Kings, if he is not involved his brand image will not be affected.

“It is important for him to stay clean, clear and distant from the controversy and come across as a professional contracted to play for a club franchise.  While there is enough evidence to show his closeness to Srinivasan and India Cement, since he is also an employee of the company, he cannot be held responsible for the wrong doings of his bosses. His contribution to Indian cricket, his performance and his demigod status will help him overcome any effort to connect him wrongfully to this controversy, if there is no direct connection proven.”
Hemant Mehta, SeniorVice President, IMRB International, “Brand Dhoni will definitely not get affected. He is one of the most tenacious and steadfast players. He is known for his performance on the ground, as well as for keeping his calm as a team leader.”

Charu Sharma, Director,Mashal Sports, “Dhoni has earned a lot of respect and adulation. Hence, he would not be personally hurt. He takes things lightly and has been in Cricket for a long time and that too as team leader. However, he will be upset about the fact that his name is dragged into somethinghe is not responsible for.”
Pawan Rana, CEO, Patna Pirates, Pro Kabaddi League, “The court has only talked about the owners. Players have not been named. Unless Dhoni is proved to be involved himself, his brand value would not be impacted at all.”

Sunil Pathare, Vice Chairman& Managing Director, Maxwell Industries Ltd, “Brand Dhoni is an iconic brand. Such brands do not lose their sheen so quickly.”
Kushal Das, AIFF General Secretary, “Brand Dhoni would not be impacted by the controversy. His image and brand value is far bigger than that of the controversy. He is the role model of youth of today.  There would not be any short term or long term damage to his image.”

Rakhsin Patel, Managing Director, PI Communication, “I think it is all momentary.People would forget about it very soon. Maybe Brand Dhoni would be damaged in the short term but not in the long term. Like many other controversies, this too would die down.”

Shailendra Singh, Joint Managing Director, Percept Limited, “In my view, it would be affected. There are multiple reasons for the same; first of all he has not spoken about the controversy even once. Recent loss in Bangladesh has also created a negative impact. The last damaging fact has been the team getting banned right now.  For now, he is definitely under a scanner, though I cannot predict whether brands would associate with him in future or not.”

A myriad of opinions there.  Most, however, feel that unless a direct connection is proved, Dhoni would come out of it unaffected. A school of thoughtalso believes that next big win and everything would be forgotten. Iconic brands don’t get destroyed so easily. But if a direct connection is found (which we hope and pray is not!) - Maggi was rated the most powerful brand in India in 2014.




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