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Saina Nehwal: Ad world's new poster girl

Last updated on: July 16, 2010 14:46 IST

Saina Nehwal: Ad world's new poster girl

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Business Standard/Swarup Chakraborty

It's the single largest amount the world's number two badminton player has received in her career so far a Rs 25 lakh cash prize from Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah, after she won the Indonesian Open last month.

But Saina Nehwal, 20, is now poised to earn much more per brand association, as the three spectacular championship wins in quick succession has made her the ad world's new poster girl, displacing tennis star Sania Mirza from the top spot.

- Winning tournaments is priority: Saina

Brand strategist Harish Bijoor says Nehwal's brand value per endorsement has now touched Rs 30 lakh from Rs 6-10 lakh before she won the Indonesian Open on June 26.

The value is likely to go up to Rs 1 crore if she clinches the number one position, which is now a distinct possibility, Bijoor says.


Image: Saina Nehwal
Photographs: SnapsIndia
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Saina is being wooed by 12 big companies

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That may be a puny amount compared to what a Brand Dhoni commands (Rs 200 crore for a three-year deal). Cricketers like MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar and Bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan continue to rule the charts when it comes to brand endorsements and they charge anything between Rs 5 crore and Rs 10 crore per brand association.

But the sharp gap between them and other sports stars is  hardly a surprise considering India's obsession with cricket and movies.

- 'I would love to reach No 1 by this year-end'

Jagdeep Kapoor, chairman and managing director of Samsika Marketing Consultants, estimates a 200 per cent growth in Nehwal's brand value. And he is confident that it would go up by 1,000 per cent within a year.

While most say it is still some time before Nehwal signs up for endorsements as she wants to keep herself focused on the game, Bijoor thinks she would sign up some deals soon.

"We keep an internal track on which celebrity could endorse what brand and we have come to know that a lot of agencies are looking at using Nehwal for endorsements," says Bijoor.

He could be spot on.

For, Nehwal, who endorses just three companies/products at present, is being wooed by at least 12 big companies including a few multinationals.

She became a brand ambassador last year for Deccan Chargers promoted by media group Deccan Chronicle. That three-year deal happened when Nehwal was ranked number six in the world.


Image: Saina Nehwal
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Saina will find it difficult to match Sania's brand value, say experts

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Nehwal also endorses Herbalife India, a nutrition and direct selling company, and Bharat Meri Pehchaan.

Bijoor says Nehwal was an underdog before she moved to the number three rank and Indians love stars with an underdog badge.

Nehwal's rise also coincides with the sharp fall in tennis star Sania Mirza's brand value after her indifferent performance and marriage in that order.

But some experts say Nehwal will find it difficult to match Mirza's brand value for two reasons.

One, badminton is not as popular a sport in India as tennis, and second, Nehwal is not as glamorous or telegenic as Mirza.

'In these days of visual media, that counts a lot," says a media analyst.

This is evident from the fact that even as the world's number 50th tennis player sometime back, Mirza used to command much more than what Nehwal would do as the world's number three.


Image: Saina Nehwal
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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Saina though holds youth appeal and aspirational value

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But brand experts beg to differ.

"Pure achievement as an attribute for an icon in terms of brand value is finally beginning to outweigh basic packaging attributes like style and trend setting appeal. In terms of brand appeal, it's simple maths for Nehwal after her recent win it spells a huge increase in value," says Shailendra Singh, joint managing director, Percept Ltd.

"Nehwal is at a prominent advantage now since her appeal as a thinking athlete and an intellectual icon also sets her apart from the purely style-icon stable of sports talent," adds Singh.

Bijoor also agrees. "Nehwal's personality can be defined in just one word: Grit. It reflects the determination to win successively and this is the brand proposition that will bring her endorsements. Presently she does not have the glamour quotient but today's marketers are smart enough to bring that in," he says.

Singh says Nehwal holds youth appeal and aspirational value.

"She has become a brand that symbolises the nation's new, young, energized avatar and that holds great potential for any brand targeting a youth-heavy population of consumers," says Singh.


Image: Saina Nehwal
Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
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