Forbes’ list of the 100 highest-paid athletes for 2020 placed Kohli in 66th place, with $26 million in expected earnings. Kohli was the only cricketer on the list and the only Indian.
As Virat Kohli turns 32 today, by marrying his sporting excellence to his tremendous star strength, we will trace how he became the world’s most marketable cricketer.
For the largest corporations in the world, who inevitably want to capitalize on his charismatic charisma to better communicate with their customers, Kohli is seen as marketing gold dust.
But Kohli’s right to choose and choose what he really wants to help has not been compromised by the overwhelming demand for affiliation with his name. Kohli has quickly realized the value of choosing endorsements that complement his profile and resonate with a carefully calibrated message while being the face of cricket.
This is put into perspective by a fast look at the leading brands Kohli advertises-Puma, Boost, Herbalife, Tissot, Philips, Audi, Google Duo (to name a few)-while also shedding light on how Kohli has a particular target audience in mind through most of his advertisements: that of the youth of the urban (and ideally sport-playing).
In collaboration with existing international ones, Kohli, along with Sajdeh, also understands the value of forming a personal brand. This is why Kohli opted for Puma, which decided to launch Kohli’s own athleisure line called ‘one8’ (after Kohli’s jersey number of 18), instead of renewing his contract with sports manufacturing giant Adidas in 2017. Kohli penned a contract with Puma reaching Rs 100 crore, generally considered to be an Indian athlete’s single-largest sponsorship scoop.
Ultimately, Kohli’s marketability as a cricketer is profoundly linked to what Indians can relate to and approve of, particularly the young. Therefore, the next challenge for the Virat brand is to effectively translate on the international stage this domestic aura, following in the footsteps of players such as LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Cristiano Ronaldo, the favorite of Kohli.
This will prove challenging due to the small audience of cricket (as opposed to football, tennis, or even basketball), but it is not entirely impossible thanks to social media (Kohli is the most followed Indian on Instagram) and the burgeoning success of Kohli’s chosen brands on the international market.
Kohli will be mindful, as an astute businessman, that his cricketing genius will start to wane as this decade unravels, meaning he must improve his international appeal to perpetuate his vast commercial heft.
Given his ability to chase down whatever goals are set for him, it would come as little surprise if, with a lot of preparation and a bit of luck, Virat Kohli rises to the level of a global superstar by the end of the 2020s, advancing from the most marketable cricketer in the world to the most marketable athlete in the world.