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Saina enters big league with Rs 400 mn endorsement contract

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MUMBAI: Saina Nehwal has added another feather to her cap. After becoming the first Indian badminton player to break into the Rs 10 million endorsement bracket, the badminton sensation has inked a multi-million rupee deal with Delhi-based sports management company Rhiti Sports, which also manages the lucrative endorsement contract of Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni.

As part of the three-year endorsement contract valued at Rs 400 million, Rhiti Sports will now manage Saina?s endorsements and brand associations, corporate profile, patents and digital rights, images and all other commercial rights exclusively.

The deal will catapult the world number 4 ranked badminton player into the big league of celebrity endorsement market dominated by the likes of Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor.

Deccan Chargers Sporting Ventures (DCSV), the sports vertical of crisis-ridden Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited (DCHL), was the incumbent agency managing Nehwal?s sponsorship. DCSV had in 2009 signed a three-year contract with Saina which ended on 1 September.

According to Indian Express, the deal will make Saina the highest earning badminton player in the world ahead of top badminton players like Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei who earn Rs 128 million and Rs 87 million respectively.

"I am very happy to be associated with Rhiti Sports and look forward to starting a working relationship with them. With Rhiti?s background and credibility, they know how to balance things and that is a big plus point," said Saina.

"The strides Rhiti has taken in the Sports industry in recent times made it an easy choice for me. I would like to also thank, Mr Vinod Dhawan, Vice President Badminton Association of India, who played a key role in helping form this association," she added.

Currently, Saina has nine endorsements in her kitty which includes Airtel, Yonex, Fortune oil, Indian Overseas Bank, Whisper, Emami Fast Relief, Herbalife, Jaypee Cements and Top Ramen noodles.

Rhiti Sports President & MD Arun Pandey said: "We are delighted to have Saina on board, who has brought great pride to the nation with her exploits. We are proud to be associated with someone who is not only a youth icon for women in the country but has also done a lot for Badminton as a sport.

"She has placed India on the World Map for Badminton and changed the outlook of people in India towards the sport. We will use all our knowledge and expertise, and make this partnership a very fruitful one indeed," he added.

Rhiti Sports had in 2010 signed a Rs 2.1 billion three year endorsement contract with Indian cricket team captain MS Dhoni which took him ahead of batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar, who had signed Rs 1.8 billion deal with Iconix, which has since then become a part of World Sport Group.

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