After their heroics in the just-concluded ICC Women’s World Cup in England, now is the time to reap the benefits of their hard work, commitment and brilliant display of their skills on the field. It is time for making commercial gains, which have eluded them in this cricket crazy nation.
Mithali Raj & Company are living their dream moments now. They would toil during practice, perform on ground and watch in oblivion their male counterparts hogging all the lime light, bursting commercial charts.
The life has turned a full circle as the girls return home after a month in England. The reception on arrival at Mumbai was unprecedented – fans waiting with huge banners, crowd cheering and media jostling for a “quote” from Indian sports latest celebrities, who are knocking on the doors of corporate world as the next brigade of brand ambassadors.
There has been success in the past. That was sans visibility. People watched on TV the Indian girls creating history time and again. They were creating headlines. They were creating talking points. They were trolling on social media and occupying space on the first page of national dailies. As they returned home, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is planning a grand felicitation. State governments are announcing rewards. Next on the line is brand world.
“It will open up a market for these players. However, it is important that their commercial interests are handled by a competent agency. A good team can fetch good commercial deals for them. But the players need to make right choices. It’s all sales, sales and sales. Like cricket, commercial sales is a team work. Only a right agency, backed by continuity in their performance, can get them right kind of deals and values,” says Tuhin Mishra, Managing Director and Co-founder, Baseline Ventures, the agency credited with making PV Sindhu a multi-crore-rupee brand.
“We at Baseline Ventures do see a commercial value in some of these top stars. However, we will not sign a player just for taking someone on board,” adds Mishra. “Following their recent performances and media hype around this unprecedented success there will be an acceptance among the brands. But only a good agency with a competent team and right strategy can make commercial gains out of this positive scenario.”
Where names like Virat Kolhi and MS Dhoni dominate the brand endorsement world with multi-crore rupee endorsement deals, bigger than the Khans of Bollywood. For women the market is confined to one Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Sania Mirza, and somewhat a Sakshi Malik, Mary Kom or Deepa Malik. Elsewhere there are names from the glam world of cinema.
Captain Mithali Raj once in an interview to InsideSport.co had lamented the lack of recognition in spite brilliance in performance. “Even after scoring a double hundred, I did not get any corporate support or any brand endorsement as any male cricketer would. Our game was not visible on TV. So naturally brands were not interested in us,” Mithali had said.
It was for the first time that all the games in women’s ICC World Cup were televised live. It’s also for the first time a brand market is emerging for the Girls in Blue.
“Yes the brand endorsement market will open up for the top five stars of the team. Brands will want to strike low cost deals for a start. This euphoria will last for a few months . This is the best time for win-win deals for both the sides,” says brand and business strategist Harish Bijoor, owner, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
The change does not take place in isolation. The recognition first came from the BCCI, when the governing body for the game announced a cash prize of Rs 50 lakh to the each member of the team. Then come appreciation and awards from players’ employers and home States. Corporate is next in the line to encash on this newly-found iconic status of Indian women cricketers.
As captain Mithali has aptly concluded this pleasant scenario on team’s return from England: “It is just the beginning of good times for women’s cricket.”