Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

Olympic gold medallist Neeraj Chopra has signed his first set of endorsement deals after the Tokyo games, which include India’s biggest online education firm Byju’s, Tata AIA Life Insurance and a top pharmaceutical brand. JSW Sports, the agency which represents the 23-year-old javelin thrower, is in advanced talks to finalise five-six deals with luxury auto and apparel brands in the next few weeks and a series of digital-only pacts, at fees 10 times higher than what he charged before the games.

Existing brand deals with Nike, sports drink Gatorade, ExxonMobil and MuscleBlaze sports supplements are expected to be renewed at the higher rates.

“These are multi-year deals which will run up to the Paris Olympics,” said Mustafa Ghouse, chief executive of JSW Sports. Chopra will desist from endorsing alcohol or tobacco brands, he said. The athlete became an overnight sensation after clinching gold in the men’s javelin throw last month, only the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold.

“While we have requests from close to 80 brands, Neeraj has a limited number of free days between training camps in India and abroad over the next 12-14 months, so we have to be selective about signing on brands,” Ghouse said. Apart from the mainstream endorsements, multiple digital-only deals are also being lined up, following interest from brands, Ghouse said.

Setting a Record

The 10-fold rise in endorsement value is a record for any athlete in India after an individual sporting event, experts said.

Chopra, who has 4 million followers on Instagram and more than 596,300 on Twitter, used to charge an annual Rs 15-20 lakh per endorsement. His Instagram following shot up by more than 1.1 million a day after he won the gold.

He is also being seen as a progressive youth icon after posting a video a day after his remark on Pakistani javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem led to much comment on social media, industry executives said. In the video, he urged people to not use his name and comments to further propaganda.

“Sports teaches us to be together and united. I’m extremely disappointed to see some of the reactions from the public on my recent comments,” he had said.

Prathap Suthan, co-founder of ad agency Bang In The Middle, said, “The video Chopra put out shows his maturity, not catering to jingoism and sports as it should be — this is something progressive brands certainly appreciate.”

Ghouse said brands that leveraged Chopra’s win with ads on social and digital media without having contracts with the athlete have been told by JSW Sports to take them down. PV Sindhu’s talent management company Baseline Ventures too had sent legal notices to more than a dozen brands on the same matter. Baseline MD Tuhin Mishra said these matters have been settled out of court, with the brands taking down the ads.

Brands that have awarded Chopra for his win include IndiGo offering free flights for a year, Mahindra Group gifting him an XUV 7OO, and cash awards from Indian Premier League (IPL) team Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

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By tilu858

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