When a 33-year-old injury-prone international athlete, playing a sport grappling with hectic-calendar and burnout problems, signs a six-year mega business deal, it might seem the marketing men have got it wrong. But when it is about Sachin Tendulkar becoming talent management agency ICONIX’s — advertising firm Saatchi & Saatchi’s new initiative — first signing for a reported Rs 180 crores, it’s seen as a marketing coup of sorts.
Though the men in business suits are refusing to confirm or deny the amount, Vinod Naidu, joint-head of ICONIX’s marketing team, does give the logic of signing the star who isn’t exactly in his prime. ‘‘Sports management over the years has changed a lot. It has reached a stage when one knows that there is definitely life after the game,’’ he says. The CEO and Managing Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, V. Shantaram, doesn’t even see Tendulkar hanging up his Adidas shoes in the near future.
‘‘I don’t think he has reached the end of his career. Injuries can happen to any batsman. He will play for long,’’ he says. But, as an afterthought, he adds: ‘‘If, god forbid, he retires, there is no fear. Things like his age didn’t even cross our minds when we signed him. He is a legend and he will always remain one. Brand Tendulkar will never lose value,’’ he says.
But by signing Tendulkar first up, wasn’t ICONIX biting off more than it can chew? Shantaram has an analogy ready. ‘‘If I am making my first Bollywood movie and both Shah Rukh and Amitabh like my face and are ready to sign, do you think I will refuse.’’
Not really, but when it comes to Tendulkar and signing contracts it is not about the star liking the face but more about knowing it. ICONIX’s head Naidu had been with WorldTel, Tendulkar’s previous marketing firm, and has had an eight-year association with the star. Talking about those eight years, Naidu says: ‘‘It has been an unbelievable association. Doing business with Tendulkar for so long has developed into friendship. There has never been any strain the journey has been every smooth.’’
Tendulkar too seems at home about the new association. “I have full confidence in their (ICONIX) capabilities and in the fact that they will provide the requisite continuity to the brands I am currently associated with.”
In a market where a 60-plus Bollywood superstar happens to be the biggest brand, the 30 plus legend wouldn’t lose sleep on it.