MS Dhoni phenom: Why Chennai Super Kings, Brands can't let go Dhoni, experts say

Unnikrishnan G

Bengaluru, January 21: MS Dhoni might be away from cricket field for over six months now and there is no real clarity regarding his future with the India team. But N Srinivasan, the former BCCI chief and vice-president of India Cements, owners of Chennai Super Kings, had last week confirmed that Dhoni will play in IPL 2020.

Srinivasan had also made it clear that even though Dhoni will be released by Chennai Super Kings in the next auction, he will retained through the Right to Match card. The reactions to Srinivasan's statdement too made it clear that the appeal of Brand MS Dhoni among business groups and public has not diminished one bit despite him being on the last leg of his international career. MyKhel explores the reasons for this sustained Dhoni fascination.

1. Dhoni's Chennai connection

The equation is quite simple: CSK is incomplete without Dhoni in their list. Dhoni has been a part of the Chennai outfit since the inaugural year of 2008 and the loyalty remained firm except for those two years when the Jharkhand man played for Rising Pune SuperGiants after the CSK were suspended for two years. "Over the years Dhoni has become a Chennaiite. The Chennai citizens calling him 'Thala' is not a mere symbol, but the name comes out of genuine affection. Perhaps, it is the strongest connection between a player, an IPL team and the fans in all of the IPL.

Perhaps, Virat Kohli's connection with Bengaluru crowd too comes close to it. But somehow, Dhoni and Chennai seem to have a literally unbroken bond. I am sure Dhoni will be a part of the CSK in some form in future too," a player who played for CSK for a few seasons told MyKhel.

2. Dhoni: Much more than just people connect

Indeed, Dhoni became a part of the Chennai Super Kings at the peak of his popularity, a year after him captaining India to the ICC World T20 title in South Africa in 2007. Thus the expectations on him were high when he joined the CSK and it doubled when he became Indian skipper across the formats very soon.

"And Dhoni delivered in fantastic fashion. He landed CSK three IPL titles and two Champions League titles. CSK have entered the Play-offs every year they played in the IPL. Additionally, Dhoni has played some remarkable T20 innings for Chennai, dragging them to win from near-impossible situations. It has given him the garb of a hero in CSK fans' minds. He is the biggest emblem of Chennai Super Kings," Matthew Hayden, who played for Chennai Super Kings between 2008 to 2010, told MyKhel.

3. The Brand Dhoni still shines

It is quite natural that cricketers, and sportspersons in general, will see their brand value dipping post retirement. Even someone like Sachin Tendulkar, who once commanded peak market value, saw the number of brands him endorsing coming down and the high-profile brands too shrunk in the portfolio. Dhoni is not an exception but he has branched out to keep the numbers of endorsed products high, thereby maintaining his public visibility.

"There is this fear that Dhoni not getting the BCCI contract this time might further dent his brand value. But nothing could be more out of place as he is very much a strong brand. And as we have heard, he will play in this IPL too and will be retained in the next auction. This also gives a protection for Brand Dhoni. The business houses now will have an assurance that Dhoni will remain visible at least for the next 2-3 years more and in general they ink agreement with a sportsperson for the same duration.

"Of course, the huge fan base of Chennai Super Kings too plays a big part and the marketing whiz kids know that Dhoni still has the mass reach. And Dhoni might reduce the charges he levies for endorsements now, and if it happens then it is a jackpot for smaller companies, the B2B ones if you may, who once could not afford him. It is a mutually beneficial move for both parties - a big name in their list for companies and assured visibility for Dhoni. To be honest, brand value of Dhoni as is in the case of someone like Amitbah Bacchan is much beyond a cricket field," John M Chacko, a marketing expert, told MyKhel.

4. Dhoni - net worth, brands endorsed

Dhoni remained on No 5 in the Forbes India Celebrity 100 list and his income rose to Rs 135.93 crore in 2019 from Rs 101.77 crore in the previous fiscal. Cars24, Colgate, Orient Electricals, Snickers, Seven, Indian Terrain, NetMeds.com, Dream11 etc are some of the brands that he endorses currently.

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