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Last Updated: Friday, 13 July 2007, 09:54 GMT 10:54 UK
Dhoni the advertiser's dream
By Arjun Sandhu

Maverick big-hitter Dhoni is proving a magnet for advertisers
Maverick big-hitter Dhoni is proving a magnet for advertisers
It says much for the emergence of Mahendra Dhoni that his face is almost as visible on advertising hoardings as Sachin Tendulkar.

The India wicket-keeper/batsman's panache for hitting big sixes and riding fast motorbikes has helped him acquire the status of a youth icon, which in turn has made him one of the most attractive vehicles for corporate branding.

He has quite literally been converted into a moving billboard, covered from head to toe with endorsements for products ranging from haircare to boot polish.

Dhoni has not yet overtaken Tendulkar, captain Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly in terms of cumulative deals, but the vice-captain of the one-day team has undoubtedly become the flavour of the month.

For over a decade, star batsman Tendulkar was the most attractive personality that every top brand wanted to be associated with.

And though he continues to be the most recognisable face off the field the Mumbai maestro is not signing a plethora of deals right now, primarily because he is locked into long-term contracts with a minimum tenure of five years.

Tendulkar remains the biggest grosser in cumulative terms and also has the most number of product endorsements under his belt - 17 in all, worth US$500,000-750,000 per deal annually - but Dhoni has made giant strides in building up 12 of his own.

The 26-year-old maverick is more flexible and willing to sign short-term deals with annual fees in the range of US$250,000-312,500.

Dhoni is a big fan of fast motorbikes
Dhoni is a big fan of fast motorbikes

Dhoni is also fast exhausting the categories that he can promote - eye care, tooth care, suits, car batteries, insurance, banking, mobile phones, cars, soft drinks, and footwear are all backed by his smile.

Why Dhoni?

His long tresses with highlights, his need for speed and penchant for hitting the ball a long way have all helped him earn a huge following among young cricket fans.

And the enduring romance of small-time boys - Dhoni hails from the backwaters of Bihar - making it big in the global arena continues to attract a massive audience.

Virender Sehwag's decline has also propelled Dhoni into the spotlight.

The aggressive opener's belligerence had attracted advertisers and marketing men in large numbers, but poor form cost him the national team's vice-captaincy and saw him dropped from the squad altogether.

Like several other Indian stars, the World Cup was a nightmare for Dhoni. However, his match-winning knocks in Bangladesh have resurrected his brand value.

Dhoni is bound to become an even more attractive proposition now that he has been appointed the one-day team's vice-captain - and the effects of that are likely to be seen when India go into the winter series against Australia and Pakistan.

The future could bring yet more riches off the field - chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar considers him a long-term candidate as successor to Dravid as skipper.

Vengsarkar says the selectors have found Dhoni to be a keen student of the game.

If he continues the way he is going about things now, the big-hitter will need plenty of time to study his bank accounts.

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