When Sachin Tendulkar retired from cricket, after playing his last Test—also his 200th—against the West Indies on 16 November 2013, there was a sense that he would perhaps fade away from the public limelight.
Unlike some of his contemporaries from the Indian team, Tendulkar didn’t appear to have interests beyond cricket, a sport he had played internationally since the age of 16—for exactly 24 years. The erudite Rahul Dravid seemed inclined towards education or coaching, besides being an engaging public speaker. Sourav Ganguly was a natural with politics—and therefore administration—which he adapted to seamlessly with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
But as he turns 50 on 24 April, brand Tendulkar remains alive, burning steadily if not incandescently. Since the time he retired, he has made public appearances, done some commentary, followed up on his business interests and was recently eating his way through Goa (documented by his social media posts) where his son Arjun plays domestic cricket. During the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), Tendulkar has been seen in advertisements—for brands like used-car company Spinny and Jio Cinema.
Arjun made his IPL debut for the Mumbai Indians on 16 April and took a wicket in his second match on Tuesday—both cause for attention towards the Tendulkar name. Any fears of a retired Sachin Tendulkar easing away into oblivion or into the annals of under-employed former cricketers is now proven unfounded.
Ten years since he retired, on the threshold of stepping into middle age, the cricketer-who-grew-up-in-front-of-a-nation, still inspires joy, awe and has enough popularity to be of brand value way past his playing days.
About 25 percent of India’s population today is under the age of 14, which has not seen Tendulkar play. About half of the country’s population is under the age of 25, who would have had a truncated exposure to Tendulkar’s batting. For many, he will merely be a name, someone their parents talk about, whose enviable records lend to sobriquets such as “legend”.
The companies that sign up Tendulkar as a brand—or he associates with—have people at the helm who have been influenced by that fame, grown up with that constant in their lives. When Tendulkar made an equity investment of $2 million in digital entertainment and technology company JetSynthesys last year, the vice-chairman and managing director of the company, Rajan Navani, called him “the most iconic cricket superstar in the country”. “We’re proud to have a Bharat Ratna onboard, a man with strong values, and an iconic Indian and global brand, as we build a global new age digital media entertainment and sports platform,” he said in a statement.
A research report, Attitudes Towards Women’s Sports, Sportswomen and Women in India, published by the BBC in March 2020 found that the most popular Indian male sportsperson was Tendulkar (21 percent), beating out the then cricket captain Virat Kohli (17 percent). Indian sprinter P.T. Usha, who retired more than three decades ago, was recalled spontaneously by 5 percent of the population. The report added that 75 percent of the respondents were still aware of Tendulkar, compared to 67 percent for Kohli, cricketer Kapil Dev (62 percent) and sprinter Milkha Singh (35 percent).
A combination of factors makes Tendulkar a relevant force, even as he turns into a retired, improbably middle-aged father who once played cricket. It was a combination of foresight and timing that made Tendulkar the biggest cricketing brand in the world for the longest time—the effects of which are felt even today. It was driven by India’s economic liberalization from the early 1990s, around the time when Tendulkar made his international debut in Pakistan, and the brazen risk taken by WorldTel’s Mark Mascarenhas, who signed up the cricketer for a five-year contract in 1996 valued at an unimaginable $7.5 million (guaranteed sum of Rs 31.5 crore). Within three years, WorldTel had raised $10 million (Rs 42 crore). The contract was renewed for an even more unbelievable Rs 100 crore (over $20 million).
“Mark’s entry in my life happened at the right time,” Moneycontrol reports Tendulkar as saying. “I wanted to stay focused on cricket and did not want to waste time negotiating contracts, which was not my or my family’s strength. So, we needed a professional who had the experience of managing these things and the relationship with Mark was simple. I wanted to stay focused on my game and Mark would handle the rest.”
New brands signed up with Tendulkar and WorldTel soon after, starting a trend that went on the upswing and stayed till the end of his playing days. Most international cricketers today have agents, endorsement deals and high earnings, driven partly by the IPL too. Tendulkar’s numbers may have been, by now, eclipsed by M.S. Dhoni and Kohli, but he remains the pioneer—and as evident by recent events, going strong as a brand and marketing tool.
What added to the allure in the early days was Tendulkar’s story as the underdog, a boy from a middle-class Maharashtrian family who broke through to the top, working through Mumbai’s dusty Shivaji Park, smashing records as a teenager and then facing up to the mighty Pakistani team comprising Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. It mirrored public sentiment, making people feel that Indians could take on anyone.
“He is unique in the history of the world. He so closely mirrors the story of the country’s journey over a period,” said filmmaker James Erskine when he made the docudrama Sachin: A Billion Dreams. “You can become that famous and loved where there is a massive explosion of media but media was not that intrusive as it is today. A national dialogue is built along this single figure, the reservoir of the hopes and dreams of a nation, not just a billion dreams but a sense of who a contemporary Indian is.”
While some marketing experts believed in 2013 that his image got diluted due to a poor run of scores during the end of his career, others felt he had the potential to reposition himself post-retirement. At the time of retirement, he was already endorsing a bunch of products, including Boost, Adidas, ESPN Star, Reynolds, BPL, Toshiba, Pepsi, Coke, Action shoes, MRF, Britannia, Fiat, Airtel, Colgate, Palmolive, Philips and VISA. While Tendulkar did not get actively associated in any one activity, like coaching for Dravid or administration for Ganguly or commentary for V.V.S. Laxman, he never disappeared from public consciousness either. That’s anyway not easy in the modern world, in which social media and paparazzi play a productive role in communication.
“If you are in India, in his presence, it’s harder to see. His presence is bigger than your eye can see,” Erskine had said about his filming and editing process.
In their book The Business of Cricket, authors Shyam Balasubramanian and Vijay Santhanam argue that it would have been impossible for another Tendulkar to become the pivot of Indian sports marketing industry.
The greatest Indian sports brand continues to prove them right at age 50.
News Source: https://www.moneycontrol.com/news/cricket/why-we-cant-get-enough-of-sachin-tendulkar-almost-10-years-after-he-retired-from-international-cricket-10461791.html/amp