PV Sindhu is now the highest-paid woman athlete in India

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After her recent record-breaking achievement of bagging India’s first gold at the BWF World Championships, 24-year-old PV Sindhu is taking her time to pick and choose new brand endorsement deals. “We don’t want brands to suddenly get excited about Sindhu. She will choose credible and long-term partnerships that are not contingent to only her performance and wins,” says Ramakrishnan R, co-founder and director of Baseline Ventures, Sindhu’s talent management firm.

As per industry sources, Sindhu’s average brand endorsement fee is about Rs 65-85 lakh per day, which goes up to Rs 1.5 crore in certain cases. Sports consultants believe with her recent win, a realistic hike of 50-70% over and above her current endorsement fee is likely. “At the moment, Sindhu is the highest paid woman athlete in India and commands fees comparable to some leading cricketers,” Ramakrishnan informed FE.

The ace shutter’s greatest merit in terms of marketability is her consistency. “She is not a flash in the pan kind of performer and brands value that quality of hers,” says Ritesh Nath, director-commercial, Nielsen Sports and Entertainment India. He believes that in the current market scenario, where brands are looking for alternatives to male cricketers as brand ambassadors, Sindhu’s recent win makes her a promising candidate.

Sindhu first rose to fame in 2016, with her Olympic silver. In 2019, she ranked 13th on a list of highest-paid female athletes in the world, as per Forbes. Sindhu was the only Indian athlete to feature in this list, topped by tennis champ Serena Williams. In 2017, Sindhu entered the Duff & Phelps brand value rankings of Indian celebrities for the first time, as the only female athlete in the list.

This year, Sindhu scored a Rs 50 crore sponsorship and equipment deal from Li-Ning in February – the biggest such deal in the world of badminton. According to the Forbes report, Sindhu, who has been India’s face at international badminton championships since 2012, earns nearly Rs 35 crore from brand endorsement deals annually. Her current roster of brands includes Bank of Baroda, PNB MetLife, Vizag Steel, Bridgestone, Stayfree, Moov, Nokia, JBL, Gatorade and Panasonic Batteries.

In addition to appearing in advertisements for these brands Sindhu also entertains corporate deals where she makes appearances and delivers talks for select audiences. As part of the PNB MetLife, Sindhu nurtures talent at the grassroots level for the PNB MetLife Junior Badminton Championship.

However, it is interesting to note that most of the brands in Sindhu’s endorsement kitty are not typically high spenders on above-the-line (ATL) marketing initiatives. Brands like Moov, Nokia and Stayfree last featured Sindhu in a 2017 campaign. This is why Ramakrishnan says that he has been reminding companies to “activate her more in both ATL and BTL marketing initiatives”.

Brand expert Harish Bijoor says that while Sindhu has very high potential as a woman brand ambassador, she will get more visibility only when she lands bigger brand deals that have fat media budgets.

While Sindhu has been the poster child of non-cricket sports athletes in India, upcoming female sports stars like Hima Das and Dutee Chand are also emerging as brand favourites, following their stellar performances at multiple international events. Das, who endorses Adidas, SBI’s YONO app, Edelweiss Group and Star Cement, doubled her endorsement fee from Rs 60-65 lakh per year following her successful streak. Chand, meanwhile, landed her first brand endorsement deal with Puma in August, reportedly for a fee of Rs 20-25 lakh per year.

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