There is PV Sindhu. The top female endorsement brand in the country. Among the top five. Ahead of all but two cricket icons. Ahead of all but two Bollywood mega stars. Then there is Saina Nehwal. Before Sindhu, the top Indian female sports brand icon. With a single deal worth Rs 1.5 crore – for Kellogs. Thereafter no female badminton player in that bracket.
Among men. Like K Srikanth. The man who demolished iconic Lin Dan in his own den to grab the China Open Super Series title. A former World No. 3. There is B Sai Praneeth. The man who beat Srikanth for the Singapore Open title. In the first ever all-Indian Super Series men’s singles final. There is Ajay Jayaram . Second rung Indian. And, Guru Sai Dutt. Household names all in Indian badminton fraternity. Stars in their own right. Achievers they are. But not with consistency.
There is little or no recognition for others. From the market. Except for their equipment sponsors’ deals. Worth 30-40 lakh rupees. Certainly no match their status in monetary terms. Not worth the values they bring on board for the brand. For B Sai Praneeth there is not even a manager or a management company in place. “Nothing. No Sponsors . Only Yonex (equipment sponsor),” laments the Singapore Open Champion.
Same is the case with Guru Sai Dutt, sponsored by Yonex and Ajay Jayaram , who endorses the other major badminton gear brand Li-Ning. Market experts blame it on lack of right kind of sales support for these icons. “There is a market for every player,” says Mr Tuhin Mishra, the Baseline Ventures Managing Director, the company that’s managing PV Sindhu. Baseline Ventures also manages Srikanth. The only Indian male badminton star to break the proverbial rupees one crore barrier, primarily due to the Yonex sponsorship deal worth rupees one crore. Outside that there is Bank of Baroda, which he endorses with Sindhu.
Srikanth believes “badminton is growing. Post the Olympic silver (for Sindhu) there are so many opportunities for her. So badminton is growing as a sport and as market as well. I have got good response. Yonex is supporting. Then there another brand. Yes there should have been more.”
There has to be a consistency in that growth. There has to be consistency in performance worth big headlines in media. “Cricketers are the brand icons for Indian market. Badminton players need to understand from where they get their competition in commercial space. Out of sight is out of mind. There has to be a consistency to gain that recognition,” says Mr Ashish Chadha, the market veteran and Sporty Solutionz chief executive.
Till the time that consistency comes in, till the time this talented bunch acquires the recognition worth iconic status. This wait will have to continue.