Negotiating athlete endorsement agreements in India

Indian cricket player on Indian flag design in background
Thursday, 15 July 2021 By Roshan Gopalakrishna, R. Seshank Shekar, Harsh Malpani

This article was first published on 18 January 2017 and has been updated to reflect latest legal developments

While Indian companies have often engaged Indian cricketers as brand ambassadors, there has recently been a growing trend to engage Indian athletes who have made a mark in other sports. However, the athlete endorsement market in India continues to be dominated by Indian cricketers. Occasionally, Indian companies have also engaged foreign cricketers as brand endorsers, with notable examples being Chris Gayle[1] and Steve Waugh[2]. However, examples of Indian companies engaging foreign athletes from sports other than cricket are few and far between and remain localised to current and retired legends of sports.

The first notable instance of an Indian company engaging an international athlete as a brand ambassador or endorser is that of Tiger Woods[3], who was engaged by the Hero Group, one of the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturers. Another notable instance is that of Lionel Messi[4], who was engaged in 2016 by Tata Motors as the company’s global brand ambassador for a period of two years. In addition, sportspersons such as Michael Schumacher and Maria Sharapova[5] have lent their name to luxury residential projects, while legends such as the late Diego Maradona[6], the late Carlos Alberto Torres[7] and Zinedine Zidane[8] have made special appearances at jewellery showroom inaugurations, trophy tours and real estate project openings respectively.

In this context, this article aims to serve as a guide for any athlete (whether Indian or non-Indian) that receive opportunities to enter into endorsement deals in India. Further, the article briefly discusses some of the key legal and commercial issues that have cropped up in the realm of endorsements in India from an athlete’s perspective and highlights potential stumbling blocks and pitfalls that are to be avoided while exploring and entering the endorsement market.

Specifically, it discusses the need to:

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About the Author

Roshan Gopalakrishna

Roshan Gopalakrishna

Roshan is Counsel (Sports & Entertainment) at LawNK, a Bangalore based niche law practice specializing in sports, intellectual property, media and information technology laws. In addition, Roshan is also the Chief Legal Counsel at Copyright Integrity International, a world leader in the protection of digital and broadcast rights. Roshan is a graduate of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

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R. Seshank Shekar

R. Seshank Shekar

Seshank is a Senior Associate at LawNK, a Bangalore based niche law practice specializing in sports, intellectual property, media and information technology laws.  He is also Legal Counsel at Copyright Integrity International, a world leader in the protection of digital and broadcast rights. 
 
Seshank has advised a wide range of clients in the sports industry and has written several articles on topics such as the tax treatment of athletes, fair play, gender determination and issues related to drug testing in sport.
 
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Harsh Malpani Photo

Harsh Malpani

Harsh is a Trainee Associate at LawNK, a Bangalore based niche law practice specializing in sports, intellectual property, media and information technology laws. Harsh is a graduate of the Kirit P. Mehta School of Law, Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies.

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