Brand owners may look at chess GM Gukesh and others for endorsement deals

Sports |  IANS  | Published :

Chennai, April 26 (IANS) Corporate brand owners may now look at the Indian teenage chess Grandmaster (GM) D. Gukesh for endorsing their brands, said a top official of MGD1 eSports LLP, a talent management company.

Gukesh recently became the youngest to win the FIDE Candidates Tournament held in Canada and qualified as the challenger for the world champion GM Ding Liren, China.

The Indian's achievement may also have a positive rub off effect on other top Indian chess players in respect of brand endorsement deals, the official added.

"In the coming weeks Gukesh will get good attention from the brand owners and the media. With his success in the Candidates Tournament, brand owners will look at chess players for endorsement deals," Manu Gurtu, Co-Founder, MGD1 eSports told IANS.

The company manages several chess players like GMs Arjun Erigassi, Srinath Narayanan and others.

Barring former world champion GM V.Anand, no other Indian chess player had signed brand endorsement deals with brand owners.

The upcoming chess players ink sponsorship deals with corporates which are different from brand endorsement deals.

In some sponsorship agreements, the sponsor stipulates certain milestone achievements to be made by a chess player, whereas the brand endorsement deal is a simple contract where a player gets paid to endorse a brand.

"In general what we have noticed is that companies in the financial services sector are coming forward to sign up with chess players as their brand ambassadors," Gurtu said.

"Generally, investments are linked to strategies and computers to their computing power, both of which chess players signify," Susan Polgar, winner of four women's world championship and five Olympic gold medals in chess, had told IANS.

However, in India, the sportsmen-brand ambassador segment is nearly monopolised by cricketers – current or even retired.

"Sometime back a brand owner had approached us for an endorsement deal for an Indian female chess player. However, the company signed the deal with a retired cricketer," Gurtu said.

"Cricket is the lowest common denominator in the country. So, brands used by everybody will look for cricketers. There are niche brands and niche sports like golf, chess and other Olympic sporting events. These games are played by a small percentage of the total population in each country but are globally known. So, niche product companies will look at such sportsmen," Harish Bijoor, brand expert and founder of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, had told IANS.

He also said there are mass brands that look at non-cricketers for want of funds and brands that are flush with money who go for different sportsmen.

Brand owners will look at the recall value of a player. In the case of Indian chess players, barring Anand, the recall value of others is very low outside of the chess field.

Anand has not only endorsed domestic brands but also global ones like AMD.

Several decades ago, Anand endorsed 'Memory Plus', a capsule that is supposed to improve a person's memory. Later he endorsed NIIT, Union Bank of India and mass brands like Horlicks, Parle Milk Shakti, Vodafone, Complan, Crocin and others.

The brand owners look for the eyeballs that a chess player can attract and its positive impact on the brand in terms of sales and building brand equity.

The advantage of niche games like chess and golf is that age does not matter, but skill and continuing to be at the top of the table matters.

In the case of non-televised games, the top sportsman should have other aspects like persona and a good presence on social media.

Bijoor lists out aspects like: glamour quotient, involvement in social causes, married to another celebrity in the same field or in a different field.

With chess turning into a costly game, the focus of several top players was to survive with meagre funds and thoughts about their market positioning did not occur to them.

Slowly the situation is changing with some chess players signing sponsorship and brand endorsement deals.

For instance, the Warangal-based young GM Arjun Kumar Erigaisi signed a five-year $1.5 million sponsorship deal – perhaps the biggest in Indian chess- last year with the Singapore-based Quantbox Research.

According to Erigaisi, the sponsorship does not come with any strings attached like Elo rating to be achieved, tournaments to be won and others.

The Bengaluru-based dairy products Akshayakalpa Farms & Foods Private Ltd has signed up with GM Nihal Sarin.

According to Gurtu, another young GM Leon Mendonca had signed a brand ambassador deal with Geno Pharmaceutical and the contract recently came to an end.

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