A gilt-edged couple!

Virat Kohli stands second to only Salman Khan with earnings of Rs. 228.09 crore according to 2018 estimates; Anushka Sharma is at 16th with Rs45.83 crore, making her the third highest-paid actress and female celebrity in the country.

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma... Brand Virushka is minting gold.   -  Getty Images

A marriage in India is often spoken of rather piously as a coming together of not just two individuals but two families and cultures as well. In the case of India cricket team captain and top-order batsman Virat Kohli and Bollywood’s leading actor-producer Anushka Sharma, who tied the knot in Tuscany on December 11, 2017, it has also been a convergence of India’s two abiding passions — cricket and cinema — and a meeting ground of several business concerns and brands they endorse individually and together.

The merger and alliance, portmanteau-ed as Virushka, has also been about the founding of India’s most powerful and pre-eminent super couple. In the same league as Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) and Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie).

According to Santosh Desai, CEO, Futurebrands, both are A-listers, among the top paid in their respective fields; both are in peak form, have a positive outward aggression and a hunger for success, victory and achievement.

“Both have very unique identity and traits. Virat on the cricket field brings his bold and confident personality that’s matched by his stellar performance, while Anushka appeals to millions with her evolution and growth as an actress of repute,” says Suraja Kishore, executive VP and GM, McCann Mumbai.

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma got married in Tuscany, Italy in December 2017.   -  Twitter


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As per Forbes India’s Celebrity 100 list of 2018, Kohli stands second to only Salman Khan with earnings of ₹228.09 crore; Sharma is at 16th with ₹45.83 crore making her the third highest-paid actress and female celebrity in the country. With a brand value of 14.5 million dollars Kohli featured at seventh position in the Forbes list of the most valuable athlete brands. In 2018, Time magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world and Sharma featured in Forbes Asia’s 30 Under 30 list of 2018.

Both have several individual business ventures. Sharma has a clothing line called Nush and is the co-founder of the production company Clean Slate Films. Kohli is a co-owner of Indian Super League club FC Goa, International Premier Tennis League franchise UAE Royals and the JSW-owned Bengaluru Yodhas franchise in the Pro Wrestling League. He jointly owns Chisel, a chain of gyms, Chisel India and CSE (Cornerstone Sport and Entertainment), the agency which manages Kohli’s commercial interests. He has also started Stepathlon Kids, a children fitness venture, in partnership with Stepathlon Lifestyle.

Kohli has over 20 brands riding on him, Sharma has around 18. There has been a slew of couple endorsements by them in the recent years — Shyam Steel and Manyavar Mohey etc. Though exact figures are hard to come by, Brand Virushka would be an expensive proposition for marketers as Virat and Anushka’s combined fees could well be upwards of ₹5-7 crore per day, conjectures Ashish Mishra, Managing Director, Interbrand. Unsubstantiated trade and media figures pitch it much higher — Anushka rumoured to be charging approximately ₹4-6 crore per brand endorsement, Virat approximately ₹8-12 cr per brand endorsement.

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Following their wedding, in an article in India Today, brand analyst and joint managing director of Percept Profile Ltd, Shailendra Singh, had called it “the biggest moment in Indian brand market” and predicted that the two’s joint net worth that stood at ₹600 crore (as per a Finapp report) was expected to reach ₹1,000 crore in the two years.

To add fuel to the fire, both have an openness for social media, are popular influencers on Twitter and have been leveraging the platform along with Instagram to further strengthen Brand Virushka. There has been an intense interest in them fanned by mainstream and social media and tabloids. “All that has currency, value and is aspired come together in the pair,” says Desai.

“If I had to pin down one key that has worked for their brand that’s their common story of middle-class-making-it-large. And while doing so together keeping their journey in the public eye right from the days of dating to getting married. This is absolutely magnetic for Indians to admire and emulate as icons,” says Kishore.

Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma are popular influencers on Twitter and have been leveraging the platform along with Instagram to further strengthen Brand Virushka.   -  AFP


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Mishra sees it in the larger context of the “couple consumer” phenomenon. According to him, recent times have seen a definitive shift in consumer behaviour and decision making. “The reasons range from the ‘Age of You’ and more complex customer journey maps to nuclear families and a more equal gender role in homemaking,” he explains. So the classic singular homemaker role has thus changed to a joint involved decision making by the couple. “As Interbrand, we illustrated this through Godrej some years back where this new couple consumer portrait was first etched out. The young urban couple Sam and Meera in the messaging that followed became the new icons and perhaps the first Indian depiction of the ‘couple consumer’,” he elaborates, going on to talk about how celebrities have always been the failsafe as also a trifle lazy way of creating cut throughs by advertisers. “So in celebrity couples one gets the best of both the worlds,” he says. Which is why there has been a spate of celebrity couples showing up in the endorsement milieu. Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan for Kalyan, Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna and Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone to name a few.

What makes Virushka stand out in the couple clutter? What makes it click? The cricket-Bollywood crossover, as Desai puts it. “Most couples are from the same field. Virat and Anushka straddle two. Virushka is an ideal that collapses India’s two greatest interests,” he says, in turn pulling in fans from both the worlds.

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Bollywood and cricket have always been most sought after by marketers because they always deliver most eyeballs and interest among the large majority. Therefore when you have a marriage of Bollywood and cricket it’s a most appealing cocktail that consumers want to taste and thus it provides maximum ROI for the spends marketers incur,” says Kishore.

“There’s another level of supplementary influence if you get a couple who are celebrities from different fields. Which is where Visushka score over others. They aggregate the followings across two of the most influential genres of the pop culture — films and cricket,” concurs Mishra.

According to Desai the only other couple that came close to their kind of pull was Sharmila Tagore and Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi in the much quieter, pre social media times. “One may not remember much now but they made a potent combination,” he says. With a touch of aristocracy adding to the lure of cricket and cinema.