“Our contract with Sania Mirza was signed for a period of one year that expired last month and we do not intend to renew the contract,” a Cadbury India spokesman said.
He, however, refused to cite any particular reason for the confectionery maker’s decision.
The wedding between two national sports players of the not-so-friendly neighbours, scheduled for April 15, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. First, some right wing parties asked Sania to reconsider her decision. Later, one Ayesha Siddiqui from Hyderabad, Sania’s hometown, claimed that she is already married to the Pakistani cricketer. Add this to her inconsistent form in recent times, brand Sania — the country’s best-known sportswoman ahead of badminton star Saina Nehwal — has taken a hit.
“Unfortunately, Sania has not been able to play consistently for the last 16 months which has resulted in a drop in rankings,” said Andreas Gellner, MD Adidas India, which signed a multiple-year endorsement contract with the tennis player in 2008.
“However, we are confident she will be back to her best and will represent India at the London Olympics in 2012,” added Mr Gellner. TVS Scooty, the only other brand Sania is endorsing, could not be contacted for this story.
“The negative press surrounding her marriage has definitely depleted her brand value and image with the advertisers currently,” said Manish Porwal, managing director of marketing solutions firm Alchemist.
The only Indian tennis star and sportswoman to command Rs 1-2 crore per endorsement was already struggling with her brand image when her wedding was announced, with the number of brands she representing falling along her tennis ranking.
In 2005-06 when she was at the peak of her career with a world ranking of 77, the tennis star had bagged big endorsers with the likes of Tata Indicom, Hyundai Getz, Lotto Sport Italia, Sprite, GVK Industries, Sahara India, Atlas Cycles and Tata Tea.
That year, Sania's valuation has come next only to Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid and she was commanding anywhere between Rs 2 crore and Rs 4 crore. By 2007, brands like Hyundai, Tata Indicom, Sahara India and Lotto Sport Italia were off her endorsement list.
But she did well on the court and reached a career high ranking of 27 two years ago.
Result? In 2008, Adidas signed a multiple year contract with her as their brand ambassador. And in 2009, she signed deals with TVS Scooty and Cadbury Bournvita.
But now the chips are down again. “Inconsistent performance has kept her at bay from the endorsers,” said Harish Bijoor, brand consultant and CEO of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. He, however, added that her brand value will increase if she does well on the court and the marriage will not hamper it. “She has to get back only with her tennis to be in the endorsements circuit again,” he said.