Women cricketers score in brand arena

NEW DELHI: It’s not just the playing pitch that Indian women cricketers are making a mark on. Off the field, too, they are raking in the moolah. At least three top players — Mithali Raj, Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur — have signed lucrative endorsement contracts. From peddling fruit juice and flaunting Australian diamonds to promoting cab aggregators and sporting shoe brands — they are doing it all.

Classy Raj has inked a deal with New Zealand-based bat maker Laver Wood apart from playing brand ambassador for US cab-hailing company Uber and Rio Tinto’s Australian diamonds. Sources said the bat deal is worth Rs 20 lakh. Her teammate, 22-year-old Mandhana has the country’s largest bike maker Hero MotoCorp sponsoring her bat and European footwear retailer Bata has picked her as a brand ambassador. Mandhana, sources said, could be charging anywhere between Rs 40 lakh and Rs 50 lakh per year for an endorsement.

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That’s not all. Kolkata-headquartered conglomerate ITC chose Indian T20 skipper Harmanpreet Kaur as the brand ambassador for its juice brand B Natural to push deeper into Punjab. Kaur, who hails from Moga in the northern state, charges around Rs 10 lakh a day for ad shoots and Rs 15-20 lakh per year for endorsing apparel and footwear, sources said. Tyre maker Ceat, which is one of the heavyweight bat sponsors with top cricketers such as Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane on its payroll, has also signed up Kaur.

Even teenaged batting sensation Jemimah Rodrigues has signed up with the Kiwi batmaker Laver Wood.

“The team’s top-class performance at the global level has made women’s cricket popular among the game’s fans in the country,” said a Hero MotoCorp spokesperson. “Thanks to their consistent performances and the live telecast of the matches, players such as Mithali, Smriti and Harmanpreet have become household names, in the process immensely enhancing their brand value.”

There could be more deals in store. “We already have several individuals from the Indian team being recognised by brands as fit to endorse their products,” said Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sport, which manages Virat Kohli.

Companies are finding new ways of cashing in on the grassroots popularity of these cricketers. “A campaign featuring Kaur, which ran as a state-level contest, became a platform to identify and celebrate honest talent among girl children across Punjab in the cities of Bhatinda, Patiala, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Chandigarh,” said an ITC spokesperson. He added, “There was an overwhelming response with 6,431 students participating in events across domains like knowledge, arts and sports. Winners will now compete for becoming the final ‘Harman XI’ in the state-level finals to be held next year.”

The riches did not come overnight. In a country dominated by male cricket lovers who enjoy watching the men’s team play, these women had to up the ante to compete for eyeballs. “The girls have taken a lot of effort off the field,” said current fielding coach of the Andhra Pradesh team Munish Bali, who has spent time training the Indian women’s national cricket team. “They are much fitter now.”

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