Inside India's million-dollar celebrity brands: Virat Kohli leads; Deepika Padukone most valuable woman

Cricket and Bollywood – India’s two national obsessions – dominated the celebrity endorsement landscape in 2019. Meet the stars who are making hay – online and offline – while the sun shines.

Inside India's million-dollar celebrity brands: Virat Kohli leads; Deepika Padukone most valuable woman

Monday February 17, 2020,

6 min Read

The Duff & Phelps Celebrity Brand Valuation Study, which provides a definitive ranking of India’s most valuable celebrities derived from their endorsement contracts, is in its fifth edition now. The study found that cricket and Bollywood stars continued to hog brand endorsements and dominate public consciousness in 2019. 

Indian men’s cricket captain Virat Kohli emerged as the most powerful celebrity brand, growing his valuation by 39 percent to $237.5 million. This is the third time in a row that Virat has managed to grab the top spot. 

He was succeeded by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, who witnessed the biggest jump in valuation, growing by 55.3 percent to $104.5 million

India most valuable celebs

Illustration: YS Design

Actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh were tied at the third spot with valuations of $93.5 million each, with the former retaining her most-valuable female celebrity status for the second consecutive year. 

They were followed by Bollywood superstars, Shah Rukh Khan ($66.1 million) and Salman Khan ($55.7 million). Trailing them were Alia Bhatt ($45.8 million), Amitabh Bachchan ($42.1 million), Mahendra Singh Dhoni ($41.2 million), while new entrant Ayushmann Khurrana debuted at #10 with a valuation of $40.3 million. 

Top 20 eating everyone’s pie

India’s top 20 celebrity brands are cumulatively valued at $1.1 billion, with the top 10 alone contributing close to 75 percent of it. Also, the number of endorsements split among them grew by more than 16 percent from 235 in 2016 to 370 in 2019. 

Other celebrities who made it to the top 20 were Hrithik Roshan ($38.9 million), Varun Dhawan ($35.2 million), Priyanka Chopra ($32.2 million), Ranbir Kapoor ($27 million), Sachin Tendulkar ($25.1 million), Aamir Khan ($24.9 million), Tiger Shroff ($24.2 million), Anushka Sharma ($23.9 million), Kareena Kapoor Khan ($23.7 million), and Rohit Sharma ($23 million).


Ayushmann Khurrana debuted in the Top 10 at a valuation of $40.3 million

Of these, Tiger Shroff (#17) and Rohit Sharma (#20) are the new entrants. Combined with Ayushmann Khurrana, the three recorded a cumulative brand valuation of $87.5 million, indicating the rising popularity of millennial actors and cricketers. 

Aviral Jain, Managing Director, Duff & Phelps, said,

“The industry saw a wave of new faces and concepts with the effective usage of digital media to capitalise on millennials and Gen Z. Even though brands changed their approach of sticking to established actors by roping in new faces, overall, the industry managed to stay on course with the perfect blend of traditional and new.” 

Interestingly, besides scooping up brand endorsements, these new stars also turned entrepreneurs or became investors (christened by the industry as ‘starvestors’), “infusing capital in brands that resonated with their values”.

Hottest sectors for celeb deals

Traditionally, FMCG has accounted for a lion’s share of celebrity endorsements. After all, what’s better than getting a popular face to sell an everyday product?

In 2019, Personal Care (25 percent) and Food & Beverages (19 percent) were the most sought-after sectors. Hair Care (11 percent), Services (nine percent), and Consumer Durables (eight percent) followed, according to advertising analytics provider AdEx India.  

Television, print, and digital occupied a majority of these ad spends. Digital was particularly instrumental in becoming “culture-creation hubs” by bringing about new ways of interactions and conversations between consumers and brands.

Celeb valuation infographic

Infographic: YS Design

In 2019, the top five impact endorsements on digital were Virat Kohli’s Puma and Mobile Premier League, Akshay Kumar’s GOQiiand Honda, Deepika Padukone’s Epigamiaand Asian Paints, Ranveer Singh’s Xiaomi and Thumbs Up, and Shah Rukh Khan’s D Décor and ICICI Bank.

Vidya Venkateswaran, VP and Head of Strategy, DDB Mudra South, observes,

“Digital and social media are providing brands a way to insert themselves seamlessly into consumer conversations. Brands are not just corporations today; they have to be friends, acquaintances, connections – an influencing voice in conversations online. Having a celebrity lead these conversations lends extra weight and potency to the brand voice.”

Measuring social media clout

The study also took into consideration the social media clout of these stars to arrive at a more holistic brand valuation. This included mentions and impressions across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and other platforms. 

Jaagriti Seth, Director, Meltwater India (a San Francisco-based social monitoring startup), said,

“Today, the popularity of a celebrity is not guesswork but easily measurable. In a few clicks, one can immediately gauge the impact of any action taken by a celebrity.”

deepika padukone

Deepika Padukone retained her status as the most valuable female celeb for the second year.

Talking of the dominance of Bollywood and cricket on the brand valuation landscape, she explained,

“Cricket and Bollywood are national passions for India. The volume of conversations on these topics run in millions daily, ranging from press coverage to fan accounts and from serious discussion forums to meme pages.”

Stars with the highest social media clout in 2019 were Virat Kohli, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh, and Shah Rukh Khan.

Growing tribe of digital-only endorsements

Digital advertising revenues in India grew by 37.6 percent to reach Rs 160 billion in 2019. Today, digital mediums, platforms, and stars are key to brand strategies across industry verticals. 

As a result, the digital era has birthed a new tribe of internet-only brand endorsements that do not appear on traditional mediums like TV and print. 

Top segments for digital-only deals are health and wellness, beauty and makeup, and mobiles and electronics. Celebrities, especially young upcoming stars, who are mainly popular with the Gen Y and Gen Z audience, bag a lion’s share of these deals.

“Brands like boAt, Calvin Klein, Daniel Wellington, and MAC do not run commercials on traditional TV, but are actively endorsing on social platforms and creating buzz around their products through different media engagements,” the study revealed. 


Millennial brands like boAt are leading a growing tribe of digital-only endorsements for stars

Top stars attracting more deals online than off it include Kartik Aaryan, Vicky Kaushal, Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon, and Disha Patani. In fact, Disha and Kartik recorded the biggest skew towards digital at 73 percent and 69 percent, respectively. 

Varun Gupta, MD and Asia Pacific Leader for Valuation Services, Duff & Phelps, explained,

“The industry has seen experimentation, and the rise of digital format advertising and OTT platforms is breaking new ground in endorsements. Brands have adopted the path of conscious advertising by choosing uplifting topics and making the narrative less window dressed, an important facet for Gen Y and Gen Z.”

For a star-struck country like India, it is hardly a surprise that brands — young and old — piggyback on the two biggest national obsessions to reach the masses

As for the celebrities, they will continue to make hay while the ‘star’ shines!

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)