MS Dhoni is still India’s No.1 Sports Celebrity

MS Dhoni

Legendary former Team India Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni may have started the autumn season calling time on his international career, but he’s ending it as the number one celebrity endorser in India.  

Having recently played his 200th Indian Premier League match, stepping on the field to bat for Chennai Super Kings against Rajasthan Royals in Abu Dhabi in October, Dhoni is no stranger to reaching new career milestones. The only captain to have successfully taken the CSK to the playoffs in every IPL season they participated in until 2019, he has accumulated a total of 4568 runs in the IPL alone. Now, he’s breaking new ground in his career off the pitch. 

India’s top celebrity endorser 

According to a recent report by TAM Media Research, the record-breaking batsman/wicketkeeper is estimated to have earned a total of INR. 150 crores during this current IPL season, from a combination of 10 different brand endorsements; beating out top Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan and Alia Bhatt, and emerging as the top celebrity endorser in India.  

During the 2020 season, Dhoni has endorsed brands operating in diverse categories including health & fitness, FMCG, technology, gaming, luxury goods, and travel. He even owns a fitness and active lifestyle brand, Seven, and has taken on several new ambassador positions this year with brands like PokerStars India, OPPO, and Khatabook – all of which are harmonious with his traits as a world-renowned athlete, innovator, and unflappable leader.   

Dhoni’s exceptional sportsmanship and ‘Captain Cool’ persona, for example, have made him the perfect ambassador for PokerStars India’s “Are You In?” promotion. The face of the campaign, Dhoni has featured in three videos where he takes on diverse opponents across the country in games of online poker, proving that this exciting new mind sport can be enjoyed by all. 

This autumn, Chinese consumer electronics giant OPPO signed Dhoni as an ambassador for their brand new #BeTheInfinite campaign in the mobile vertical. A project “which aims to inspire people to push their limits”, the campaign ties in with the brand’s new Reno4 Prom smartphone and highlights that with “dedication, hard work, persistence, and will” everyone can achieve their dreams – just like Dhoni.  

His new collaboration with Khatabook, meanwhile, will see him apply the extensive strategic skills he cultivated during his 15+ year career to the world of fintech. In addition to ambassadorship for this innovative SaaS start-up, Dhoni has invested in the company itself and will be working in strategic partnership with them to “transform the way India does business”.

Dhoni’s soaring brand value  

MS Dhoni’s exceptional qualities and talents ensure that even if he retired from IPL cricket today, his earnings from endorsements would still be substantial. Although his list of endorsements is long when compared to other sports stars, each endorsement is in perfect synergy with the MS Dhoni brand.  

The Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) recently conducted a telephone survey to check out the recall of brands, celebrity endorsers, and campaign messaging amongst Indian consumers. A total of 892 respondents were contacted between 15 and 35 years old, with a 59/41% male and female split. The team used their in-house CELEBAR tool to evaluate the feedback, which assigns a metric score for things like spontaneous recall of the brand, celebrity, or both, media weight vs. campaign, and recency of communication.  

MS Dhoni emerged from this survey with a total CELEBAR score of 82, making him not just the top earner in the country but also the one most prominent in Indian consumers’ minds – fellow cricketer Virat Kohli, for example, only scored 69 in comparison.  

According to the survey, it was Dhoni’s association with fantasy sports and gaming brands that ensured he was placed at the top of the list, as 79% of the respondents contacted remembered him as an ambassador for India’s first-ever “Unicorn Club” fantasy sports platform.  

While brands will take a lot of factors into consideration when choosing endorsers from the sports world, such as availability, enthusiasm to endorse key products, etc, the prominence of the player in the minds of consumers carries a lot of weight. MS Dhoni could choose to walk away from cricket altogether in 2021, but his continued popularity with Indian consumers combined with the savvy endorsement deals he’s known for making will only see his brand value continue to soar.