Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who became the toast of the season for winning India’s first-ever gold medal in athletics exuded confidence that all sorts of track and field sports will gain eminence in medium to long term. His victory is being considered by sports analysts as the beginning of an era when non-cricketing sportspersons from tier 2 or 3 cities are put on a pedestal and made our national heroes.
“The brand equity of Olympians has definitely gone up. If you look at somebody like Neeraj Chopra, he hardly had 150,000 followers. Now has got 3.8 million followers. He is becoming the biggest athlete of India just out of the Olympics. His brand equity has definitely surged 5,000 times over. Before the Olympics, people hardly knew anything about Javelin as a sport. Now they are encouraging even their Children to take up Javelin (as a career option),” Darshan M., a serial sports entrepreneur.
Apart from the adulations from newfound fans, even governments are giving cash rewards to the winners of the recently-concluded Olympics. While monetary rewards to the tune of Rs. 9 crores poured in by state governments for Neeraj Chopra, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and EdTech major BYJU’S offered a reward of Rs. 1 crore each. While budget airline major IndiGo announced that it will offer unlimited free travel for one year to Chopra, Anand Mahindra has promised to gift him the upcoming SUV XUV700.
Besides, lucrative brand ambassador deals and endorsement value running into crores, till now the monopoly of cricketers, too will come to him. Parth Jindal, Founder of IIS and JSW Sports, said in an interview to a leading portal that Neeraj Chopra now has commanding endorsement value which is just second to Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli. Likewise, Badminton Star P.V. Sindhu, the first Indian woman to win two Olympic medals, is likely to see a surge in her brand endorsement fee and value. She is entitled to get Rs. 50 lakh under Andhra Pradesh’s sports policy. While the IOC has awarded Rs. 25 lakh, the BCCI also announced Rs. 25 lakh for the ace shuttler. Just like the other five medallists who bagged silver or bronze, she will receive Rs 1 crore from BYJU’S,
The men’s hockey team, which won its first Olympic medal in 41 years, will get Rs. 1.25 crore from BCCI and Rs. 1 crore from BYJU’S. The cash rewards for players would be Rs. 25 lakh, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC also awarded Rs. 25 lakh to Borgohain, the first player from Assam to bag an Olympics medal in boxing. She is set to receive Rs. 50 lakh prize money under Assam’s sports policy. The boxer is set to receive Rs. 1 crore from BYJU’S.
Avik Chattopadhyay, Co-founder of Expereal, a brand consultancy firm, avers, “The benefits of associating with an event like the Olympics is to build instant affinity with the millions of Indians who are following our “quest for glory”. If we perform well at the games, the associations benefit as the general sentiment of the nation is positive. If we perform the way we are doing right now, it will all end in sullen faces and deflated moods. I do not think the association leads to any tangible benefits of increased sales, especially in a time when most of us are at home and cutting down on conspicuous consumption. The benefits irrespective of how many medals we win, are a reinforcement of commitment to the Indian market and key causes like the development of sports, better nutrition, and an overall improvement in quality of life.”
While many presume that a power-packed performance by multiple athletes in Tokyo could be the turning point for Indian sport, will Indian sports aficionados really look beyond cricket and focus on real international level sport? Chattopadhyay doesn’t think so claiming that their endorsement fees will never ever reach that of even level 2 cricketers in India.
He asserts, “The fees are directly proportional to the viewership of a sport or event. Also, as cricket is a festival that happens throughout the year, the following of the ‘faithful’ remains, more so as India always has a higher chance of winning. Allow the Indian cricket team to keep losing for 12-15 months and not have IPL – the following will drop, and the money will dry up. Bollywood and cricket are Indian’s “comfort zones”. They will always attract more money.”