Virat Kohli could eclipse MS Dhoni as highest earning Indian sportsman

NEW DELHI: Being the highest profile athlete in the world’s second most populous country, India cricket captain Virat Kohli has built such a formidable brand across the spectrum that even his occasional brash and indiscreet comments fail to tarnish it.
Watches, cars, sports shoes, motorbikes, clothes, ride services, tires, snacks, health foods, headphones – even toothbrushes — they have all had the Kohli marketing treatment.
The 30-year-old cricketer with tattooed arms and coiffured hair currently endorses 21 brands including Tissot, Audi, Puma, Uber and Hero, pushing him into the Forbes’s 2018 list of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes.
Coming in at No. 83 on the back of his estimated $24 million income over the previous 12 months, Kohli is the world’s top earning cricketer and comes in ahead of other high-profile athletes such as Novak Djokovic and Sergio Aguero.
It is unlikely he would ever be able to challenge the likes of current Forbes’ No.1 Floyd Mayweather or No. 2 Lionel Messi due to cricket’s appeal being mostly tied to a small batch of predominantly Commonwealth countries.
However, he could soon eclipse Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the highest earning Indian sportsman ever. Former India cricket captain Dhoni earned $31 million in 2015 as he promoted a series of brands.
His success off the pitch is matched by his prowess on it.
A prolific scorer of runs, on Sunday he produced a match winning innings to help India to victory over Australia and his performances have ensured he enjoys rock star status in the cricket-mad country of 1.3 billion.
He wed actress Anushka Sharma last year to create a marriage between cricket and Bollywood, India’s two biggest obsessions, helping give him a ‘family man’ image that can appeal to a middle class audience – and harness its spending power.
That does not mean he has lost traction with India’s youth.
“The youth of the country – and more than half of India’s population are under 25 – can identify themselves with the man living their dream,” said Kohli biographer Vijay Lokapally.
Kohli has a strong social media presence with over 37 million fans on Facebook and is followed by more than 25 million on Instagram and 27.1 million on Twitter.
“He speaks his mind, takes stands, interacts on social media – all of it goes well with his fans,” Lokapally said, describing Kohli as “complete theatre”.His sponsors have had a bumpy ride at times.
When a cricket fan recently described Kohli, the world’s top ranked test batsman, as “overrated” and said he would rather watch Australian and English batsmen than “these Indians”, Kohli responded with both barrels.