Will Hima Das be able to peel away brands from cricket?

Dubbed the Dhing Express, Assamese sprinter Hima Das’ sensational run in track & field events is making brands stand up and notice the teenage athlete. Das bagged 5 Golds in three consecutive weeks at the Nove Mesto and Metuji Grand Prix recently.

Das came into prominence with her Gold winning performance in 400 m at the World U-20 Championships 2018 held in Finland, becoming the first Indian athlete to achieve this feat. She went on to prove that this Gold was no flash in the pan by setting a new Indian national record at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.

Soon, brands set out to woo Das as they looked beyond cricket to rope in sports stars who have made their mark. Brands like Star Cement, Adidas, Edelweiss, and SBI YONO have associated with Das so far. She has also been appointed as the first youth ambassador of UNICEF India.

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The year 2018 saw a 22 per cent growth in Athlete Brand Endorsement Value. Of the Rs 482 crore spent by brands on acquiring sports stars, it comes as no surprise that cricket accounted for 81 per cent, according to ESP Properties’ ‘Sporting Nation in the Making VI 2019’ report. Lacking strong contenders in sports other than cricket, non-cricketing endorsement deals accounted for Rs 89 crore in 2018, with 86 brands signing up with non-cricketers.

PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal raised their brand equity during this period, making them the highest non-cricketing endorsers in Indian sports. With Das’ star rising and her endorsement fees doubling this year, she may soon turn the brand spotlight on athletes whose performance stand out. The endorsement fees of the Indian sprinter have reportedly doubled recently. Das now charges around Rs 30-35 lakh a year per brand to about Rs 60 lakh annually.

Commending Das on her stand out performance, Lokesh Mishra, COO, Rhiti Group, said, “The amazing achievement by sprinter Hima Das will ensure that her brand value soars tremendously going ahead. The Dhing Express, as she is called, has won five international gold medals in the span of a month. Such a feat has been made possible because of her arduous hard work and she comes across as a very promising young sportsperson. The fact that she has so many more medals to win and the efforts she is putting in means her brand value will only rise in the future.”

Commenting on why Das could be a good fit for brands Charu Sharma, Sports Commentator & Director of Pro Kabaddi League, said, “Hima is still very young and has around 10 years of running ahead of her. She has the versatility of running 200 as well as 400 meters. She comes from a very humble background, a non-urban set-up. Her journey is the typical rags to riches story. She seems to have a sunny personality (much like a young Dhoni) and has striking enough features to be able stand out in photos/ ads. With loads of confidence (or she would not easily have won medals overseas), she appears to be happy to be in the limelight and doesn’t seem shy or reticent. All the ingredients necessary to succeed as an athlete and a brand endorser.”

The year 2018 also saw a trend of smaller and regional brands adding incumbent stars in the world of sports to their kitty.

According to a report by GroupM’s ESP Properties, “Brands which can use athletes and their storytelling power will garner massive interest from fans and advertisers, owing to mass media exposure via TV and one-to-one engagement through social communities, rediscovering their true value.”

The report added, “Women athletes have been doing well for India on the world stage and the endorsement value they command bears testimony to the fact that there is a market for diverse sporting interests in this country.”


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