Virat’s second Rs 100-crore pact, extends MRF deal for 8 years

Virat Kohli will continue to drive Brand MRF for the next eight years. The global tyre brand and team India captain have renewed their agreement. The deal is stated to be over Rs 100 crore. This comes close on the heels of Kohli signing a Rs.110-crore endorsement deal with sports lifestyle brand Puma for a similar period, Economic Times has reported quoting sources associated with the deal.

Bunty Sajdeh, CEO of Cornerstone Sport and Entertainment, the agency that manages Kohli’s endorsements, said that the deal with MRF has been renewed at a “significant jump” from the previous Rs.8-crore three-year deal but declined to divulge details. “We have renewed the bat sponsorship deal with MRF for eight years. MRF was keen on securing Kohli for a long term,” said Sajdeh. “Today, brands are seeing value in securing long-term deals. We also want to show loyalty and commitment to them. And Kohli has got a great rapport with MRF and the money is phenomenal.” MRF has been the bat sponsor for many cricketing greats, including batting legends Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Steve Waugh.

The tyre brand has recently released a promotional video, highlighting Kohli’s traits, and establishing how being Virat best represents the MRF qualities.

Currently, apart from Kohli, it also sponsors Shikhar Dhawan and South African batsman AB de Villiers. Kohli has been an advertisers’ delight for some time and he joined the Rs.100-crore club by mid-2016, endorsing 13 brands. The 28-year-old right hand batsman hit the headlines once again earlier this year when he signed the deal with Puma, one of the biggest such endorsements in the country.

The MRF deal makes the national cricket team captain the only Indian athlete to have two 100+ crore contracts. The numbers are set to grow fruther. For Kohli endorsements, it will be value and not numbers. ET has quoted Sajdeh as saying that Cornerstone is not looking for any more plain vanilla sponsorship for Kohli and “will look at cutting down on the number of brands he is endorsing. This is phenomenal. Sachin (Tendulkar) opened the endorsements market for Indian sportspersons, which was milked later by (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni and now Kohli is taking it to another level.

“The way it looks, Kohli is going for better value deals than volume. I believe it’s a solid strategy,” say the trade experts. Meanwhile, on the rumours of fallout with PepsiCo, Sajdeh said that Cornerstone and the beverage firm are in talks for other brands within the company. “I am in constant touch with Pepsi officials not just here in India but also with their global team. I will be meeting top management in Chicago next month again and it is 50:50 right now,” he said.

Ramakrishnan R, director at sports marketing firm Baseline Ventures, said, “Kohli commands a premium as he is the top order batsman and in the current set up he is one of the three players who play all formats of cricket. However, it has to be a deal with some riders as the deal is on a higher side. It may be, if he has committed for three days per year for eight years, which will be around Rs.4 crore per day.” Ramakrishnan, whose company manages shuttler PV Sindhu, said, “Equipment and apparel deals are cash cows for athletes as these are part of them. So these command top price, a case in point being Novak Djokovic’s huge deal with Lacoste.”

Vinit Karnik, business head at GroupM’s entertainment and sports division ESP Properties India, said, “brand Kohli is at an alltime high. Kohli is in a unique position as he is a clear number one in terms of sporting icons currently, hence, his brand endorsement kitty is expected to increase and break all previous benchmarks.” Karnik said that a lot of Kohli’s traits — fearless, go-getter, hungry, passionate and ambitious — are reflective in his brand choices.

“What sets Kohli apart as a cricketer is that he has a mix of Saurav Ganguly’s aggression and Sachin Tendulkar’s class. In a way, he has qualities of Young India, so all the brands that would want to target young Indians, would definitely want to get him on board,” he said. Kohli had a busy last year, both onand-off the field. Along with lofting hapless bowlers out of the ground, the cricketing world’s richest icon was on national television selling soft drinks, luxury cars or cookies — for at least three hours a day.