New Delhi: Nearly half the Indian cricket team has been left in the lurch without a bat advertiser, as the world’s largest sportswear firm Nike has pulled out of sponsorship for them.
It has been learnt that the Oregon-based sportswear firm has not renewed contracts with Indian cricketers such as Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Most of its other bat assets — including Manish Pandey, Axar Patel and Umesh Yadav — were seen using plain bats during the ODI series against New Zealand. The bat of Kedar Jadhav, another Nike protégé, was sporting the manufacturer’s label.
Sponsoring cricket bats is an expensive marketing exercise in India. Companies cough up Rs 7-10 crore per year to put their logos on willows of top players, such as Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni. And, Nike India has been struggling with losses that have accumulated to over Rs 500 crore in 2014-15.
A Nike India spokesperson did not reply to an e-mailed questionnaire sent by TOI, while sources in the cricket equipment manufacturing fraternity said it has been around two years since any of the top bat makers in Meerut have got orders from Nike for new bats.
While Nike remains one of the biggest spenders in cricket, paying around Rs 60 crore a year to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to sponsor the Indian cricket team’s official kit, it has shut around 30% of its stores in the country to cut cost.
The move signals a broader trend, where advertisers are not only looking beyond cricket at other sports for better return-on-investment (ROI), but are also exploring innovative marketing practices to advertise in India’s most widely watched game.
German sportswear maker Puma, for instance, recently snapped up Olympian wrestler Sakshi Malik as brand ambassador and is also investing in sports such as boxing at the grassroots level.
In cricket, it took a cue out of international football and brought its ‘Tricks’ range of footwear into India. Around 60% cricketers and some umpires too wore bright Puma shoes during the last IPL, that helped the firm garner eyeballs at a fraction of the cost of sponsoring a bat. The total cost to Puma was less than Rs 12 lakh.
Nike’s biggest rival Adidas has also hedged its bets. While it still remains involved in cricket by sponsoring bats of one or two top players like K L Rahul, it has branched out to cheaper alternatives such as kabaddi, football and tennis as a sponsor.
Earlier, many Indian cricketers including Suresh Raina and M S Dhoni (Reebok, which is owned by Adidas) used bats that were sponsored by the company.