From 23 to 37: 14 years of Brand Dhoni’s commercial journey


Mahendra Singh Dhoni celebrated his 37th birthday in the India cricket team official flannels shortly after playing 500th international match. The 14-year journey from his 23rd to the 37th birthday has been a remarkable one – both on and off the field. There are numerous records, triumphs and titles on the field. Off it, Dhoni has been one of India’s biggest brand icon. He had raised “commercial” the bar set by Sachin Tendulkar. He is still there among the top two as Virat Kohli is taking the commercial market for sporting heroes to another level.

A school-level football goalkeeper, Mahi stepped into cricket. The man did not look back thereafter, proving to be among the best in cricket – in all spheres of the game, to be among the best brand icons in the game.

Commercial recognition came for Mahi as quick as his success on the field. Merely three years into international cricket Dhoni had brands like Big Bazaar, Brylcreem (Godrej Sara Lee), Boost (Glaxo SmithKline Beecham), Dainik Bhaskar, Exide Industries, Godrej-Hershey’s, Lafarge Cement, NDTV, Orient PSPO, Parle, Pepsi, Reebok, Royal Stage, Sonata, Siyaram’s, TVS and Videocon under his belt.

As Dhoni turns 37 on this 07.07 (July 7), revisits seven commercial milestones in Dhoni’s 14 years journey of name, fame and success.

First Advertisement Commerical – Dhoni’s first advertisement commercial was for Karnataka Soaps and Detergents Pvt. Ltd.’s flagship brand Mysore Sandal soap. He debuted for the Indian team in the year 2004 and bagged this advertisement just 6 months later. The feat was exemplified by the fact that Dhoni was endorsing 17 brands in the next 3 years, that included the likes of Hero, Big Bazaar and Boost.

First Brand Deal – Just months later from his international debut, Dhoni was signed by TVS Motors as the face of their motorbike. It was his first association with a brand on a long-term basis. But that wasn’t all. As soon as Pepsi’s deal with Sachin came to an end they were quick of the blocks to sign Dhoni all happening in the same year. His image as “the boy next door”, helped him gain a lot.

First IPL Contract – As the Indian Premier League took off in 2008, Dhoni became the first most expensive players in of cricket’s richest professional league. Chennai Super Kings made the highest ₹ 6 crore bid for Dhoni’s signatures on their contract. Ten years later, he is with the CSK for a ₹15 crore deal.

First Management Contract – In the year 2010, Dhoni signed with Rhiti Sports and Management. The company, believed to be floated and owned by Dhoni, had the exclusive rights to market and manage brand Dhoni. The deal was inked at a mammoth ₹ 200 cr. Dhoni overtook Sachin in the deals aspect as before this the highest deal was signed by Sachin worth ₹ 160 cr.

The Movie – With all the frenzy, and his popularity always on the rise, Dhoni’s life and journey was always a screenplay writer’s delight. A biopic on the superstar was not something unexpected. Bollywood came up with a movie, in the year 2016 – MS Dhoni: The Untold Story – was a blockbuster. Dhoni was paid a handsome ₹ 80 cr as the rights fee for the movie. The film was the second highest grosser for the year with over ₹200 global collections – only behind Sultan.

Own Brand – In February 2016, Dhoni along with his management company Rhiti Sports, launched his own brand “SEVEN” – a casual and sportswear, athleisure and shoe brand. The brand reportedly grossed over $ 2.5 million ( ₹ 17.1 cr) in the opening three months. Dhoni specifically owns the footwear part of the brand.

Indian Army Commission – MSD had always dreamt of being an Army man. Cricketing credentials also helped him realise that cherished dream. Due to his achievements as a cricketer, former Indian cricket team captain, MS Dhoni was given an honorary commission as a Lt Colonel in the territorial army. He was commissioned into the 106 Para TA battalion. It was an honorary post. But the fighter Dhoni was committed for bigger challenges. He attended the para basic course in Agra. After completing the course, he underwent 3 para jumps to earn himself parachute wings.

Before Virat Kohli emerged as a new phenomenon and after Tendulkar has set new trends in the brand market, Dhoni has constantly raised the bar – taking Tendulkar’s legacy to a new level and still being one of the top two in the Kohli era. Dhoni’s net worth was reported to be $31 million. Brand endorsements comprised a large part of this value. He used to charge between ₹8-10 crore for each endorsement. His total annual earnings from brand endorsements stood at ₹ 120 crore to ₹ 150 crores at that time.

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