Experts divided on Brand Kohli - What's in store?

Akanksha Nagar
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Brand Kohli

Although brands came in support of Kohli, experts suggest that the latter is buffeted with uncertainty. While some suggest that Brand Kohli might weaken over the next few months, some opine that he will continue to rule the roost – though all boils down to Kohli’s on-ground performance.

Virat Kohli has not only raised many questions in the minds of Indian cricket fans given the circumstances in which he left the Test captaincy but also stirred doubts among the advertising land.

Considered one of India's most successful captains, Kohli endorses a plethora of brands including Puma, Audi, Hero MotoCorp, Tissot, MRF, Vivo, Blue Star, and Myntra. Not only is he one of the highest-paid endorsers of the country and holds the top position in the Duff & Phelps’ Celebrity Brand Valuation Report 2020 with a brand value of USD 237.7 million, but he also has 179 million followers on Instagram alone.

His decision to quit the test captaincy a day after India lost the last test against South Africa, has led many to re-calculate his marketability and brand equity. Although brands including Puma and Audi India told PTI of their plan to continue their endorsements with Kohli, experts tell Social Samosa that his brand equity will perhaps drop down over a period of time, estimated somewhere between three to six months.

It is also important to note that he was not sacked, unlike the reports stated earlier, and it was his personal decision to quit. Experts stand divided on whether this move by Kohli impacts his brand endorsement stance. More so in recent times when the role of brand ambassadors is not limited to just being a face of the brand.

"We have seen how today’s sensationalising style of television news and keyboard warriors amplify and make mountains out of molehills. While a celebrity’s brand value is determined by several factors – familiarity, photogenicity, and public conduct – the key is still the extent of the celebrity’s popularity, which is largely driven by their performance. This is especially true for sports celebrities," shares Samit Sinha, Founder & Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting.

Also Read: Celebrity Brands: Virat Kohli – Captain of social media presence?

Expert Take

Brand Kohli’s sheen to diminish, if he continues to underperform: 

Sandeep Goyal, MD, Rediffusion


Sans captaincy, Brand Virat Kohli is going to lose a lot of sheen. In India, captains have always taken a lion's share of endorsements and Kohli is going to lose a number of his brand ambassadorships and will have to make way for the new leaders of the team. His present brand equity is bound to get diluted - from being the only one as captain, he will now be only 1 of 11.  The confrontation with the BCCI is not good for Kohli. Remote as it may be, he can even be dropped from the side if he continues to underperform. So, Brand Kohli is buffeted with a lot of uncertainty and negative sentiment.

Prabhakar Mundkur, Brand Strategy Advisor & Mentor


I think his brand value will not drop overnight. Perhaps it will drop down over a period of time, maybe three-six months.  Brands might drop him over the next few months depending on the nature of the contract with him.  If the clause in the contract reads that the contract can be terminated immediately if he is no longer captain, they could drop him immediately.  But since IPL is around the corner some marketers might stretch it, especially if the commercials with Kohli are ready. I think sudden changes in celebrity status is becoming commonplace. Iron-clad contracts would take care of this eventuality for most marketers.

Karthik Srinivasan, Communications Strategy Consultant


I believe his brand value is more dependent on his on-ground performance than his captaincy. As long as he performs well, he should be able to retain and improve his brand value. One solid performance in a forthcoming match and things would turn away from the questions now. The brand value has always been about how popular a celebrity is at any given point in time/a period. Kohli is young and still has some cricket under him. That, plus his on-ground performance should keep him in good stead. Plus, as a pair, Kohli and Anushka are even more appealing for many brands.

Harish Bijoor, Brand Guru and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults


Virat Kohli has two personas. One is the physical persona as a cricketer and captain of team India. The other is his digital persona with millions of followers on Twitter, Instagram, and more. Stepping down from captaincy definitely affects brand value on the former. As for the latter, it will be business as usual. 

Popularity is independent of whether the player is the captain or not:

Samit Sinha, Founder, Managing Partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting


I don’t agree that stepping down from captaincy is going to necessarily diminish Virat Kohli’s brand value. Brand value is a function of a celebrity’s popularity, and in sports in general and cricket in particular, popularity is independent of whether the player is the captain or not. Sachin Tendulkar had only a very brief stint as captain, but he continued to command a much higher brand value than all the subsequent captains he played under, whether it was Ganguly, Dravid, or Dhoni.

Brand value is gained by being the indispensable star performer in the team regardless of whether one is the captain. Kohli has only resigned his captaincy, he has not retired from playing international cricket, and I don’t think any brand that he endorses will reconsider his role as an endorser at least at this moment. That could most certainly change if his performance as a player suffers in the coming times or if he is dropped from the team for poor performance or on disciplinary grounds. Nothing that I’ve read or heard suggests that there are any serious negative sentiments being associated with Kohli. If anything, it seems that he is generally being lauded for his passion, intensity, commitment, and assuming the moral high ground.

Ramesh Narayan, Founder, Canco Advertising


I don't think Brand Kohli will earn any less at least for some time more. He is the presiding deity in the pantheon of cricketing God's in a country where cricket is a universal religion. No one comes anywhere close to his persona right now. His controlled aggression, his dashing looks, and his mastery over batting all make him a very bankable brand for the many brands he endorses.

Brands to not pause communication basis his recent row with BCCI or the retirement:

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist, Investor, and former marketer at HP Inc, Motorola, and PepsiCo.


Brands and celebrities certainly impact each other.  However, whenever any controversy arises with an ambassador most brands pull back on using the concerned ambassador, ensuring the rub off does not negatively impact the brand. Brand custodians are always cautious on this issue. I don’t see brands pausing their communication with Kohli because of his quitting the captaincy. Also while his quitting has stirred up some controversy, I don’t think there is any negative sentiment toward him.

Kohli’s persona has been built over the years of his cricketing genius. He is one half of India’s best-known celebrity couple; a caring husband who took time off during the birth of his daughter; a committed passionate and peak fitness-oriented athlete and increasingly a smart communicator who says the right things, and is a role model for today's youth. Kohli is easily India’s most popular sports star with an estimated value of nearly $250 million.  Also, he is among the world’s best cricketers and is still at the peak of his career. Of course, his form hereon will have an impact on his popularity, but I don’t see any impact in the short term.

Nisha Sampath - Managing Partner - Bright Angles Consulting


Kohli has never been one to shy away from conflict or refrain from speaking his mind on any issue. As such, this is not a new facet of his persona, but one that is already known to brands and to consumers - who accept him in spite of him, and maybe because of it. So, I don't think that brands will pause their communication for that reason.  Also, unlike Novak Djokovic, who was perceived to do something 'wrong' by some people, Kohli has not done anything wrong. In fact, he has overwhelming support and empathy from fans and fellow players at this time. I don't think there is too much negative sentiment around this issue. Also, it is unlikely that stepping down from captaincy will diminish his brand value. His star power is definitely not dependent on his leadership role alone. 

Apart from this, the role of celebrity endorsers has changed massively from the time when MS Dhoni or Sachin Tendulkar retired back in the day. In the current scenario, where brands and endorses are very closely related where a slip-up by either reflects on the other.

Article by Akanksha Nagar.