- Known for wearing his heart on his sleeves, Virat Kohli is always batting for sixes when it comes to marketing and brand endorsements.
- As per Duff & Phelps, a Kroll business, his brand value also remained steady at $237.7 million in 2020.
- With the ongoing Indian Premier League, we talk to experts to find out what makes Royal Challenger Bangalore’s Captain Virat Kohli Indian brands favourite endorser.
Known as the ‘run and the record machine,’ Kohli retained his top position for the fourth time in a row in Duff & Phelps’ ranking with a brand value of $237.7 million in 2020. In the brandverse, he has beaten the Khans and left the whole Bollywood far behind in the last four years. He is the only sports celebrity on the top 10 list this year.
Even during IPL commercial breaks, he is one of the most visible faces on television with more than 17 brands in his kitty.
As per IPLomania, a syndicated study from Hansa Research, Kohli is one of the most highly-rated players in the IPL. His popularity across performance parameters, as well as image attributes, have already surpassed those of Dhoni who has unequivocally been the biggest star in the IPL over the years.
India is a country that worships cricket. IPL brings a great opportunity for brands to connect with their consumers and it is during this extravaganza that celebrity endorsements see a spike on television. According to TAM Sports-IPL 13 Advertising Report, the total number of celebrities seen in ads during the IPL went up by 92% for the first four live matches, as compared to the 2019 edition.
The demand for cricket celebrities is also increasing over the years. The report further stated that IPL 2020 witnessed 18 sports celebrities in ad films during the first four matches. In 2019, only four sports stars were seen during the same duration.
Kohli was the second most visible celebrity during IPL season 13, contributing 16% to the ad volume.
As per media reports, Kohli is also the highest-paid athlete and apart from cricket, he earns a majority of his net worth from brand endorsements. Duff & Phelps and Hansa Research told us that Kohli is expected to earn around Rs 10-12 crore or $20 million per endorsement on an average.
So, what makes Kohli so popular?
N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research said, “Virat Kohli has established his credentials with panache in his earlier cricketing innings and the seeds of his popularity lies in that. His records in today’s day of fast cricket are quite commendable too. Though he has among the lowest percentage wins as Captain of any league team, his personal performance has been extremely good and makes him desirable as a brand ambassador. The value of Virat is linked to RCB victories, but a cricket celebrity is no longer just limited to the game, and his versatility has been useful for him. While Virat has a few more cricketing years left, other talents like Devdutt Padikaal are emerging, and as we know NILF (Nothing In Life is Free), so as long as Virat continues to score in the game, he will score with the brands and fans.”
“He has emerged as the primary choice of product brands to engage and attract consumers. Not only has Kohli amazed the audience with his professional laureates, his personal life has also always been in limelight. Be it his strict fitness regimen or his ‘family man’ image, many product brands have associated with Kohli to capitalize on the perception he has created over the years. Even though he may not perform at the top on the cricket field at times, he is still the most loved celebrity in the brand verse owing to the additional qualities and quirks he brings to the table, which resonates well with the product’s brand image,” said Aviral Jain, Managing Director, Duff & Phelps.
Kohli represents brands across categories, as mentioned below in Duff & Phelps 2020 report. Some notable endorsements signed by Virat Kohli include Great Learning, iQOO, Iqoo Smartphones, Lafarge, Max Life Insurance and Vizecare. Additionally, he has been endorsing brands like Colgate, Google, Hero, Puma, Vicks, etc.
He was also recently appointed as the brand ambassador by IPL’s title sponsor Vivo.
Telling us what inspired the brand to choose Kohli amongst other IPL team captains, Nipun Marya, Director - Brand Strategy, vivo India said, “Cricket in India is not just a sport. It is an emotion that binds the nation together. Virat Kohli steers this passion for the sport well through his commitment and winning mentality. When it comes to making the real difference in a Cricket match, Virat is the undisputed king. His strong character on the field and captivating charm make him bring joy to millions of cricket fans worldwide, making Virat a perfect choice for vivo. The idea behind associating with a sports youth icon like Virat is to better connect with our consumers. With Virat Kohli's association, we aim to reach the millennials and technologically driven consumers, the key audience for us."
Brand Endorser, another syndicated study by Hansa Research, validates Kohli’s celebrity status. A comparison of ‘Celebrity Scores’ across various parameters – Recognisability, Personality, Persuasiveness, and Likeability – puts Kohli in the same bracket as Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Shahrukh Khan, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, some of India’s most bankable celebrity endorsers.
Comparing Kohli with other cricketers, V. Sudarshan, – CMO and SVP, Hansa Research said, “Virat Kohli is one of the most expressive cricketers, be on the ground or during interviews. Tendulkar was a Cricketing God for a nation that had hardly seen any sporting personalities as heroes that had a global reverence. Dhoni was a small town railway employee asserting himself by winning the world cup. Virat did neither, but has managed to become a modern role model for a new India that is unapologetically assertive and fiercely independent. In terms of performance on the field, both Tendulkar and Dhoni were superlative in their own right. This was a vital factor in their stardom and the resulting marketability. Virat has not only matched it but, arguably, gone even further in dominance. He could be one of the first batsmen to be a genuine master across all formats – Tests, ODIs, & T20s. Virat’s consistency in performance, and resonance with the youth could be seen as the key ingredients that make him such a sought after sports celebrity in India.”
Sudarshan also told us that Kohli earns massive amounts of money via endorsements of brands like Puma, Audi, MRF, Colgate-Palmolive, Tissot and has done shoots for many personal care companies as well. MRF signed Kohli in 2015 for a three-year period, where he reportedly received ₹8 Crore per year.
Kohli’s charm on social media
Kohli’s social media following also increased by 46.3% from 112.8 million in 2019 to 165.0 million in 2020, revealed Duff & Phelps. He has been engaging with his fans frequently through live sessions, posts, reels, etc. Here’s how his Social Media following has grown across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram over the last 3 years.
“This massive social media following adds to the potential consumer base for the associated brands, especially during the lockdown when most of the brands had little to no access to the traditional channels of advertisement. As per data from Hyper Auditor, his quality audience has increased by 66.6 percent from 41.9 Mn in 2019 to 69.8 Mn in 2020. Moreover, Kohli has been engaging with his fans frequently through live sessions, posts, reels, etc. His engagement per post also increased from 2.2 percent in 2019 to 2.8 percent in 2020,” said Jain.
Will RCB’s performance impact Kohli’s brand image?
Kohli’s IPL team, RCB’s brand value declined by 9.9% in 2020. Considering that brands chase numbers and eyeballs, will this decline in the team's value impact Kohli’s net worth this year?
Jain explained, “RCB’s value decreased largely due to the impact of pandemic last year. While RCB’s value declined last year, its value may have been further impacted had RCB not leveraged heavily on Brand Kohli. A large portion of RCB’s ability to generate sponsor interests (even after below average on-field performances) is due to their association with Virat Kohli. Virat has been signed as brand ambassador of many brands since cricket has mass appeal, and fans worship him for his expertise, consistent performance and excellence in all three formats of cricket. However, his following is dependent on a lot of factors besides his professional excellence. Thus, while we agree that brands chase numbers, Virat’s brand value may not be materially impacted by the decrease in RCB’s value. Kohli’s brand image, relatability and followership continue to remain strong and we expect the same trend going forward.”
Sudarshan also said that Virat Kohli’s popularity is not dependent on RCB. In fact, it’s the other way around.
“RCB has been able to sustain its popularity (despite an indifferent IPL performance) because of Virat Kohli. Players like Virat Kohli and Dhoni are not dependent on the IPL to enhance their earning potential. Rather, it is the IPL that becomes a more marketable property for brand, because of the presence of such players in the league,” he added.
While only time will tell whether Kohli’s RCB will bring back home ‘team of the year’ title, he will continue to be the favourite celebrity in the brandverse.