There’s an unusual spark in the birthday wishes pouring in for Virat Kohli, who turns 34 on Saturday.
German sportswear company Puma, for instance, will co-create a life-sized mural of the star cricketer, also its brand ambassador, to celebrate the occasion. It is turning 5,000 cricket balls into the artwork, and asking fans to participate in large numbers.
Some brands in Kohli’s portfolio — including names Manyavar, Vivo, MRF Tyres and Audi — will also mark the occasion in their own unique way.
Brand Kohli is in top form as he turns 34, which explains the heightened celebration by fans as well as companies he is associated with. On Wednesday, the star cricketer became the highest run-scorer in the history of the ICC T20 World Cup, going past Sri Lankan Mahela Jayawardene. In the ongoing edition in Australia, Kohli is the top run-scorer with 220 runs, with three half-centuries in four matches.
As brand experts indicate, the star batsman, also the most valuable celebrity in India according to brand consultancy Kroll (at $185.7 million or Rs 1,500 crore), is now on a firmer footing than ever. He appears composed and in charge of himself, says N Chandramouli, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based brand insights firm TRA Research.
“What we are seeing is the emergence of a statesman in Kohli,” Chandramouli says. “Most of his innings in the T20 World Cup have come in high-pressure situations. He was focused on his game, putting a strong total on the scoreboard. Brands will take note of this.”
Kohli’s endorsement fees, at about Rs 5-6 crore per brand per year, is expected to go up at least 15 per cent following the T20 World Cup, say celebrity managers. He may also end up signing more brands after the tournament. Kohli has around 25-30 brand endorsements and is on track to add at least another five, since he remains a marketer’s delight.
Consider this: Kohli is the most followed cricketer on social media, with 221 million followers on Instagram. He is also the third most followed athlete on Instagram after footballers Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Struggling with a rare loss of form in the last few years, which also saw him give up his captaincy of the national squad across formats in 2021, Kohli has matured over time, says K V Sridhar, ad veteran and chief creative officer of Mumbai-based digital agency Nihilent HyperCollective. His current purple patch follows a long period of struggle, Sridhar says.
Some brands have been quick to seize the opportunity even before Kohli returned to form at the T20 World Cup.
Last month, for instance, Kohli and his wife Anushka Sharma signed up as brand ambassadors of oral-care start-up toothsi.
Earlier this year, the cricketer added names such as Rage Coffee, Livspace and plant-based meat brand Blue Tribe to his list of endorsements.
Cricket and brand experts say that Kohli may retain his form for some time, which is expected to impact his engagement with companies off the field.