MUMBAI: Brands seeking celebrity endorsement in India are turning away from home-grown sports stars and towards their international counterparts, a study has claimed.

Tenvic, a sports training and consulting firm, found that during 2012 there were fewer brands associating themselves with sport – 128 compared to 140 in 2011 – but there was a rise in the number of non-Indian sports celebrities visible.

"There could be seasonality attached to these numbers as 2011 was the year of the cricket world cup," Nitya Guruvayurappan, marketing head, Tenvic, told The Times of India. "But what is clearly a trend is the growing relevance of international sports celebrities in India."

She pointed in particular to the greater exposure of Indian viewers to various football leagues from across the globe, as well as Formula One motor racing and golf.

"Today, global brands don't need to customize their campaigns for Indians as these sportspersons are familiar names now here as well," she said.

The proportion of non-Indian sporting figures used to endorse brands stood at 25% of the total in 2009, but two years later this total had risen to 40-45%, the analysis added.

Cricket remains the single biggest source of sporting brand endorsers, accounting for 45% of the total market, followed by football on 17%.

"Sports is a key communication platform for brands in our portfolio," said Homi Battiwalla, senior director, marketing, PepsiCo India, "whether it's cricket for Pepsi and Lay's or action sports for Mountain Dew."

"Specifically with cricket, the sheer popularity of the sport in India makes it an exciting property to reach out to our target audience, especially youth," he added.

Cricket players also took the top three spots in terms of endorsements, in the form of MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli respectively. The biggest non-cricketing stars are badminton player Sania Nehwal and ex-footballer Baiching Bhutia.

Over the period 2009-12, the top 15 sports brand ambassadors, who were all Indian, accounted for half the total number of endorsements.

Data sourced from The Times of India; additional content by Warc staff