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P.V. Sindhu in a commercial. Image Credit: Facebook

Dubai: P.V. Sindhu may be the only Indian athlete to figure among the world’s highest-paid female athletes’ list by Forbes, but her brand managers feel both the champion shuttler and her parents have managed to stay “unaffected and extremely grounded” about it. The new world champion shuttler has been ranked joint 13th, with an earning of $5.5 million during the period of 2018-19, in the latest Forbes list released earlier this month.

“Sindhu remains India’s most marketable female athlete …. She became the first Indian to win the season-ending BWF World Tour finals in 2018,” Forbes reported. This was before she added the World Championship crown in Basel to her profile last Sunday — which will certainly raise her stakes with the India Inc — but there is no plan to leverage on the immediate success with a hike in her fees.

Rio Olympic medal effect

Speaking to Gulf News over phone, Tuhin Mishra, co-founder and Managing Director of her managers Baseline Ventures, said: “The fees for any athlete does not go up or down on the basis of a single success or failure. In Sindhu’s case, she had been reaping the rewards of her consistency over the last three years since her Olympic silver medal in Rio 2016.”

It had been no easy ride for the sports management firm to initially convince the corporates to invest on this tall and gangly girl with oodles of talent in a country where the lion’s share of the advertisement budget goes after cricketers.

“We had taken Sindhu on board about six months before Rio and it was not easy to make the initial breakthrough. The silver in Rio changed all that and the way she built on it had been phenomenal. Only late last year, she won the BWF Superseries finale in China — which is as prestigious as only the top eight ranked men and women’s players qualify for it,” Mishra observed.

Brand ambassador

The golden girl of Indian sport now has with 14 deals in her kitty with a wide variety of brands, including Yonex, JBL, Bridgestone, Moov, Bank of Baroda and Gatorade, and according to Mishra, a number of “active discussions” are on the closing stages. While no official comment was available on the price tag she commands for each endorsement, the Forbes calculates its earnings tally by looking at the prize money, salaries, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees between June 2018 and 2019.

There are 15 female athletes who made at least $5 million during that time period, with tennis stars Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka topping the list.

Priority is training regime

There is still a perception that the trappings of stardom in the booming, corporatised market of Indian sport — which calls for a star to often go for an image makeover, shoots and sponsors’ gigs. Asked how Sindhu has managed to balance it with her career so far, Mishra said: “A lot of the credit for that goes to her parents P.V. Ramana and Vijayalakshmi, both of whom have sacrificed immensely and kept her extremely rooted despite the cheques coming into the household. The golden rule we follow is that the sponsors have been asked never to schedule any appointment at the expense of her training regime and tournaments.

“Having said that, Sindhu had been extremely professional in terms of dealing with the sponsors and given them to reason for complaints,” the Baseline official added.