Sachin – not the right choice any more?
PepsiCo has ended a 10-year relationship with Sachin Tendulkar, reportedly because the beverage giant felt the master batsman, at 35 and in indifferent form, is not as big a youth magnet as he used to be.
Also, at 40-50 million rupees a year (about $1 million), he was a tad pricey.
Pepsi, which recently also parted ways with former captains Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly, has signed on such young cricketers as Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma for its “youngistan” campaign, targeted at a younger demographic in a country where half the population is below the age of 25 years.
At least one ad in the new campaign features Shah Rukh Khan, the 42-year old super star, although in the role of an older — the glasses are the giveaway — guardian to the young actor Deepika Padukone and beau Ranbir Kapoor.
So are ageing movie stars surer bets than ageing cricketers? Tough question in a country that’s obsessed equally with both. But there are some telltale signs.
Ever heard of an actor’s house being vandalised after a movie bombed at the box-office? Even Dhoni has had his home attacked after recent defeats.
In the world of celebrity advertising, marketers appear to have a lemming-like approach to cricket: one big knock or wicket haul has them all beating a path to the door of the cricketer du jour, with the result that the recent Twenty20 extravaganza was a blur of cricketers on field and off it, endorsing everything from styling gel to lubricants.
But cricketers are at the mercy of our board, which adds and axes at will, and advertisers are known to have “escape clauses”, particularly for younger players, that allows them to abandon a contract if the player is say, dropped from the national team.
Tendulkar, whose roster includes Adidas, Airtel, TVS Motor and Aviva, has been a top endorser for more than a decade, considered a lifetime in the notoriously fickle ad industry.
Some argue it is the uncertain nature of cricket that forces our players to embark on a seemingly exhausting round of endorsements.
Bollywood stars are equally non-discriminating, smiling for products ranging from luxury watches to fountain pens.
But who leads the crop there? Khan and the Big B, our evergreen hero, who command the highest prices, and between them endorse about two dozen brands.
What does SRK or the Big B have that a Tendulkar or a Ganguly don’t?
“It does seem counter-intuitive, if brands say they want to connect with the youth, and there are so many younger actors to choose from,” said Sumanto Chattopadhyay, executive creative director for south asia at Ogilvy & Mather.
“But clearly, SRK’s not perceived as old, and no one else has that kind of superstar power.”
So while Khan and Bachchan senior can be assured of a long inning, our cricketers have to resign themselves to even shorter stints as endorsers, he said, because of “overexposure” from the sheer amount of cricket they play, and because younger players are popping up with a greater frequency.
How about some sympathy — and some change — for our boys in blue.