By the time the spear landed at a distance of 87.58 metres from the Tokyo sky, Neeraj Chopra had struck gold, literally and metaphorically. While the applause still hasn't died down for his javelin throw that thankfully ended India's drought on the Olympics track, advertisers, sponsors, brands back home are lining up to sign the sporting sensation of the moment.
So much so that compared to him, all the other winners of Tokyo Olympics bringing home medals are an after-thought, including Chanu Saikhom Mirabai. In India, sports stars have usually meant only cricketers but the scenario is fast changing ever since PV Sindhu made it big in Rio Olympics.
Athletes, world champions from other fields, like hockey, football, boxing have settled only for a piece of the pie. Neeraj Chopra, ticks off all the right boxes -- rural background, rugged good looks, and Haryanvi accent -- to be loved and recognised all over India that still enjoys watching Dangal on satellite networks.
Long queue of brands
His home state Haryana announced a cash reward of Rs 6 crore already. That was just a start. India's carrier IndiGo joined in and announced unlimited free travel to Chopra for a period of one year. His coach from Karnataka Kashinath Naik will be given prize money of Rs 10 lakh by the Karnataka government.
Ever since the floodgates opened, the announcements have been overflowing. To celebrate his Olympics feat, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra promised an SUV, while edtech company Byju announced a cash reward of Rs 2 crore.
An athlete in the league of cricketer Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has been the blue-eyed boy of corporate sponsors for a decade now. A few reports already catapulted Chopra brand worth to Kohli's. Parul Parmar, independent public relations professional pins it down to his prodigious win at the Olympics. "I believe he is already at the top of the wish list for advertisers. His talent, motivational personality, his background are all something the brands would love to collaborate with."
The fact that he is son of the soil, son of a farmer, retaining his rugged looks, wearing an Army badge, international accomplishments -- all allow a wide spectrum of brands to associate with him. The last serving Army officer to bring home a medal and shoot TV commercials was Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and that was way back in 2004, when Rathore won a silver at Athens Games.
Meanwhile, the BCCI announced a cash reward of Rs 1 crore, while IPL franchise Chennai Super Kings also declared a reward of Rs 1 crore. Car, cash and accolades is not where it stops for Neeraj Chopra. His social media following has traversed the same distance his javelin did and stands at 3 million followers on Instagram. It's still early hours, the corporates are queuing up.
Saikhom Mirabai Chanu in limelight next
It's a similar story for 26-year-old Saikhom Mirabai Chanu, after she brought home a silver medal from the Tokyo Olympics. Soon after her feat, Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw felicitated the weightlifter with a reward announcement of Rs 2 crore and a promotion in her job in the Northeast Frontier Railway.
A couple of days ago, Manipur Textiles, Commerce and Industry Minister Biswajit Singh announced Chanu as the brand ambassador of Manipur Handlooms. The minister recalled how she has inspired millions with her grit, hard work and determination. That's true of all of them.