Television

'We share cordial relations with the BCCI' : Kings XI Punjab co-owner Mohit Burman

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Amid controversies surrounding shareholding issues and a termination notice from the BCCI, the spirit of Kings XI Punjab hasn‘t dampened. The Indian Premier League franchise expects to break-even this year as it targets a 15–20 per cent increase from all revenue channels.

Though the drama off the field and the court proceedings caused damage to the brand, Kings XI Punjab has fought back and managed to retain four of its existing sponsors.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com’s Ashwin Pinto, Kings XI Punjab co-owner Mohit Burman talks about the hard times the franchise had to go through while staying on course to turn profitable.

Excerpts:

The BCCI had terminated its IPL contract with Kings XI Punjab and now the team is back. What is the current relationship with the BCCI?

We share cordial relations with the BCCI. After all, it is in both our interests to run the league smoothly.

What was the argument that you made in court over the BCCI‘s abrupt termination?

The BCCI had a certain opinion about the shareholding structure of the company, which was factually incorrect. The court in its interim order has accepted our position on the issue.

Amid all the controversies including the one for overseas broadcast rights, are you concerned that the IPL‘s brand value might take a hit?

Brand IPL has only been growing these past three years. We believe that this will further grow with each passing season.

Does the BCCI need to adopt a more inclusive approach and involve franchises when it takes big decisions?

The BCCI and franchisees form the IPL. Hence, it is only right that both engage with each other in the best interests of the league.

There are now 74 matches as opposed to 94 envisioned earlier. What impact will this have on your revenue?

Each franchise shall still play 14 games at the league stage. I do not, therefore, see any great impact on revenues. We are confident of breaking even this year.

Though there are 74 matches as opposed to 94 envisioned earlier, there will not be any great impact on revenues. Each franchise shall still play 14 games at the league stage. We are confident of breaking even this year

Some feel that the BCCI should not have added two new franchises. Do you agree?

I don‘t see 10 teams as problem. It was always known that two new teams would be added in 2010.

Yuvraj and Mahela are match winners in their own right and we did try to bring both of them back into our team. But after a point, the costs for individual players affect the composition of the team. At the end of the day, one has to formulate a team vis a vis spending the bulk of our purse on individual players. We have added 12 uncapped players including Nitin Saini, Sunny Singh, Siddharth Chitnis and Paul Valthaty.

How would you describe the progress that Kings XI Punjab has made over the past three seasons of the IPL?

We have come a long way since the first auction when nobody was sure if this format would work at all. Over the past three years, we have seen a number of ups and downs.

The first season was a good season for us from a cricketing perspective as we reached the semifinal, but then we slipped and our performance has been below par in the last two seasons. But with the learning’s from the previous seasons, we have now worked out a very balanced cricket team under an IPL winning captain – Adam Gilchrist. We strongly believe that our new team has the potential to win the IPL and make all our fans and supporters very proud of us. With three seasons behind us, we have only learnt more and understood how the business of sport and entertainment works. We are now in a better position to plan and execute effectively with clear objectives.

What have the key learnings been?

The IPL is a very interesting product as its gets cricketers from across cultures who have always played against each other but are now playing in the same team. Hence, we have realised that the success of the team depends on how well the team gels together and plays as one unit while understanding each other’s limitations and strengths.

From a brand perspective, IPL team fans were initially excited about the cricket stars in each team. However with our efforts over the last few years and even going forward, we are trying to position Kings XI Punjab as the prime product and have the fans support the team rather than the stars in it.

Over the last three seasons, we have had partners who have stood by us and believed in brand Kings XI Punjab. For the coming season, we have renewed four of our partners (Emirates is the Title sponsor while Reebok is the Official Apparel Partner, USL is Official Games for Challenge Partner and Wrigley is the Official Chewing Gum) as we believe that long term associations is where the value in sport sponsorship lies.

How hard has it been to get the sponsors on board after all the controversies Kings XI Punjab went through?

It is fair to say that the happenings off the field initially had an effect on the perception of the sponsors to a certain extent.

However, the fact that four of our existing sponsors have signed again with us should indicate the trust and faith that sponsors have in us as a franchise and the value that they see in associating with us. You shall soon hear of many more sponsors coming on board with us for the coming seasons.

Is it just money that you are looking for or are there other parameters?

We are a group of friends who invested in this venture as all of us are passionate about sport in general and cricket in particular. We also saw value in this model as a business proposition.

What revenue growth are you eyeing this year?

We are looking at a 15–20 per cent increase on all revenue channels across the board.

Two new franchises means more clutter for advertisers. How do you see things playing out in terms of brand recall?

All the teams are assigned Catchment Areas and Bases. This should take care of the brand recall to an extent. We have invested time, effort and money into building brand loyalty,

which is the hallmark of our franchise. We value our association with our fans and are grateful to them for standing solidly behind the franchise at all times.

It is also very important to realise that sponsors come into the IPL market with their own set of objectives and plans. Some brands use this platform just as a branding exercise while others rely on activities around the team and players.

The TRPs of the IPL in the past three years have been more than impressive as it is the biggest sporting property in the country.

What initiatives are you planning for to build fan connect this year?

We are looking at increasing our fan base by conducting activities for the Lion‘s Den, which is our Fan Club. These would be online through our website and on ground activities in our catchment areas of Punjab, Haryana, HP and J&K.

Fans can win tickets, merchandise and also get to meet and train with the team. You will see all this happening in the lead time to the season and even during the off season.

In the past you have been careful about marketing expenses due to the economic climate. Will these expenses be reduced further this year?

We have budgeted for what is required to meet our marketing objectives.

What strategy are you looking at to build the licensing and merchandising side of the business?

The licensing and merchandising market is still at a nascent stage in India. Unlike a traditional and regular licensing and merchandising programme, we have had to create a plan according to the market needs.

While we have licensed our team kit to Reebok, we have also identified other partners for sole merchandising. We have signed up a specialist partner who shall represent us in the licensing space. We shall be making announcements about the same in the days to come.

Is Kings XI Punjab looking for a CEO?

We are not looking for a CEO. Arvinder Singh heads the management team as the COO.

Are you interested in being involved in other sports?

The IPL has changed the way sport is successfully run in India and as part of the IPL, we are in a good position to help develop other sports.

We have always said that we are a community-driven team and one of our core objectives is to give back to sports. Hence, as and when feasible and excitable projects come along, we shall take a call at that time.

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