Friday, February 24, 2012




We live in strange and funny times, quipped the local wit and for once, I agree with the majority. In a fiercely competitive, market driven and bottomline obsessed world where brand-consciousness takes on hysterical dimension, it would seem that the entire process of identifying, zeroing-in and signing brand ambassadors would be totally driven by the performance in the field, right? After all, their red hot popularity and connect with their fans-especially in the area of showbiz and sport – is normally based on that and brand managers are quick to pounce on these hi-achievers ride on their fame/stardom with communication narratives (across diverse media avenues) that produce seductive synergy to inform, educate, persuade and sell their wares to the public, right? Err … not really … and not always!

When in Hollywood, a celebrity like Lindsay Lohan – notorious for grabbing headlines of the wrong kind and constantly oscillating between jail and rehab centres – is said to have scored a cool $4 million fee for her association with brand Playboy and designer collection named 2169, one could always argue that Lilo is obviously a great pop star and film actress too.

But then, what better example for our benefit than the uber-glam, dishy, sexy, young Russian tennis star who created such a huge “racket” in her heydays in most of the A-Circuit, glam tennis courts with her … looks and body language … and oh, game too! The name is Anna Kournikova! Did you know that the Russian babe's only actual achievement was her reaching the semis of the 1997 Wimbledon where she lost to Martina Hingis, and that she didn't registered even a single major WTA tour win ever to her name? Now compare this very ordinary scorecard with her earnings in endorsements. The former tennis player over time has been associated with several iconic brands such as Omega, Swatch, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Adidas, BlackBerry, Berlei … among others. Stats indicate that in the year 1999, she scooped up a cool $11 million from endorsements alone! ESPN Sports reporter Darren Rovell stated that the blonde bombshell consistently made over $10 million per year, right through her playing career, She retired in 2007, but if you compare those mega bucks in terms of time value … wow!

Next up is Afro-American Motocross driver, James Stewart. Reports indicate that he has consistently skipped more races than participated in, and since 2008 has competed in only one “complete” season without injury! He won a championship only in year 2009. Yet, this injury-prone bloke seems to have attracted a bunch of high-profile brands to race ahead with a portfolio that includes dazzlers like Nike, Yamaha, Red Bull, and pick up a cool endorsement package of $10 million! Avid Stewart watchers opine that “it is his injuries and the way & style with which he gets them” that provides him the marketable aura & charisma!

Closer home, we have our very own sports celebrity – desperately attempting a comeback – Sania Mirza! With a highest ever WTA singles rank of 27 (in 2007) the Hyderabadi hurricane, who swept popular imagination across the world early in her career, and then post marriage went through a dip in form and performance across tournaments, has enjoyed the patronage of signature brands like Sprite, Cadbury, Tata Indicom, Adidas, Atlas Cycles, TVS Scooty, Tata Tea, Hyundai Getz among others. Today, some may have dropped out but many have stayed on. In Bollywood too, not so successful stars like Riya Sen, Celina Jaitely, and Neil Nitin Mukesh are raking in big moolah.

What's going on? How come even non-performers are being celebrated and signed up for big bucks? Ad filmmaker and media commentator, the irrepressible Prahlad Kakkar answers head-on firing on all cylinders, “Sure, achievements and performance are important but sex appeal and glam quotient often can (and do) overwhelm that. Anna Kournikova is a typical case. Her 'Object of Desire' element flattens out anything else! Same with Chris Evert. Her cute, pretty, sweet face and personality got her many more endorsements than the performance driven, more successful Martina Navratilova. Remember, lust as a brand shine, aces every performance, achievement or scorecard on the earth, trust me!” Even communication guru Alyque Padamasee puts it down to charisma. “It is something impossible to define or explain but easy to recognise. Don Bradman had it. John F. Kennedy had it. Bill Clinton has it. Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe had it. “It's something that cannot be acquired or bought off the shelf; you have it or you don't,” says Padamsee. However, in the sports area, the veteran adman believes that it is more performance-led and you are as hot as your deeds. Showbiz by definition lends itself to charisma which is why many of the other Bollywood (Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Shammi Kapoor, Madhubala) and Hollywood (Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Frank sinatra) icons are remembered long after they are gone. Do you know that many of these legends earn more royalty after their death than when they lived?

Then what really matters more? Performance or looks? Well, being a good on-field performer gets people to notice you, but if you want those high mega-buck ad endorsements to come your way, you better be good looking – one reason why, in the world of celebrity endorsements, the outstanding hockey legend Dhanraj Pillai stands no competition in front of Saina Nehwal.



  1. celebrity endorsements are sure shot in most countries as so many want to be them, feel a closeness to them and the more we see them the more we know them and want to have what they have. 

  2. Its true, sir. A Celebrity breaks through media clutter and holds viewer's attention. For the same reason, performance is optional factor but presentability is a must. While many ad gurus still consider advertising through Celeb endorsements a myth, many companies continue to do it irrespective of the star's connection with the brand!