Television

'We expect to break even this year' : Kings XI Punjab COO Col Arvinder Singh

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Kings XI Punjab is yet to recover from the shock, its break even target having gone haywire after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) terminated its franchise contract in October 2010 for breaching ownership rules. The Bombay High Court came to its rescue, allowing it to be a part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) after submitting $20.7 million in bank guarantee.

Having paid $76 million to acquire the IPL franchise, Kings XI Punjab is now on recovery course. Sponsorship deals have been stitched and the Mohali franchise is hoping to improve its performance this year.

In an interview with Indiantelevision.com?s Ashwin Pinto,Kings XI Punjab COO Col Arvinder Singh says the franchise should break even this year and post a revenue growth of 15-20 per cent.

Excerpts:

Q. Could you talk about how the IPL as a property has grown year on year?

Cricket has achieved cult status in our country. In last four years since its inception in 2008, IPL has further strengthened the bond it has with the people of India.

With time it has also amassed worldwide audiences. The league has grown beyond the realm of cricket and is considered as a complete entertainment package encompassing the entire family.

Q. Kings XI Punjab had expected to break even in the fourth year. Has this happened or did the BCCI termination play spoilsport?

We have not yet broken even. Break even is expected this year, for sure.

Not everything goes as per plan. Ups and downs are a part of every business and they should not deter from chasing our dreams - that is to get the Cup home this year. We are constantly working towards creating a team which is extremely valuable and as partners, we will give all it takes - time, energy and resources for the love of the game.

And yes, the arbitration process is yet to conclude.

Q. What revenue growth do you expect this year and who are your sponsors?

We expect 15-20 per cent growth this year and are on course to meet that target. ACC, ONN, USL, Kingfisher, Coca-Cola and Max Healthcare are some of our sponsors.

Q. Emirates has not renewed its deal with you. Is the economic slowdown forcing brands to look at the cost of association more carefully compared to earlier years?

We have been extremely fortunate that we have had the right partners since the inception of this tournament. This year too we have some of the best brands on our side - and we hope that there will be many more to come. When we enter in to a partnership with any brand, it is based on a set of mutually agreed and understood objectives.

"We expect 15-20 per cent growth this year and are on course to meet that target"

Q. IPL ratings fell last year, making it more expensive for marketers and sponsors. Do more efforts need to be taken in terms of marketing the event to consumers?

IPL?s fan following is not limited only to India; it has also gathered audiences worldwide. While the ratings went down because of the World Cup just preceding the IPL season, the overall reach did see a substantial increase. IPL is looked as a complete entertainer and it will be interesting to see the ratings this year.

Q. Has the licensing and merchandising area grown?

This is a crucial source of revenue for the franchise. Having experimented with a few models in the past, we have now tied up with an international company to increase the reach of our L&M programme worldwide. This is a unique and long term agreement.

Q. A sports marketing expert noted that the IPL has become more an icon-led rather than a franchise event. This means that if icons like Sehwag and Dhoni do not perform, viewership will get affected as people mainly want to watch icons. Do you agree with this?

Our belief is that cricket is a team and not an individual game. Although iconic players have a definite rub off on the likeability of a team, this is but limited appeal to start with.

For a more concrete connection with the fans, the franchise must establish itself as a custodian of the values and attitude that the region represents. This kind of association will withstand any player movement.

Q. If you look at the IPL so far, which three players have been the most value for money in terms of performance for the franchise?

Every player in our team is a performer and we do not undermine their strength. Each one of them is a valuable asset and we are confident of bringing the IPL trophy home this year.

Q. On the field, Kings XI Punjab did not fare well in the previous couple of seasons. How much has this affected your brand valuation?

Brand value is a cumulative total of a number of factors. Our performance last season almost ensured that we made it to the playoffs and this year we are pretty sure that our team has in it to make it there.

We have been able to establish ourselves as a local team; we also have a loyal fan following in our catchment and also have a very huge fan following internationally. We have been growing for the past four seasons and we can only see it growing further this year.

Q. What strategy was followed during the two player auctions and were you affected by not being able to retain some of them?

We are very happy with the way the team has shaped up. We have great cricketing talent like Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Marsh, David Hussey, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla, to name a few.

We believe that we have the required strength in our team to take us all the way. Based on lessons learnt last season, we have enhanced the team strength with players like Azhar Mehmood and James Faulkner. We also have a great mix of experienced and young domestic players.

Q. What are Kings XI Punjab?s marketing efforts this year?

Marketing is an integral part of our overall strategy; it helps us build a stronger connection with our fans. Our efforts are aimed at reaching out to our fans through all possible mediums.

Currently one of the unique activities undertaken by us is our association with Indraprastha All India Sports Foundation for the ?Cricket Champs? reality show. This initiative aims at nurturing youth to develop skills which not only will make them successful cricket captains but also help them in their personal endeavours.

Q. Is Kings XI Punjab able to do activation during the off-season once the IPL gets over or is non availability of players an issue?

We are there in our catchment area throughout the year whether through our presence on the social media like Facebook or with activities like KXIP Cup, Rocky and Ranjit Voice Hunt. We have always been doing activities to connect with our fans from time to time. Player availability is not an issue.

Q. With the Big Bash league doing well in Australia, the debate about club versus country has again raised its ahead given how financially lucrative it is to play for clubs. How do you see things shaping up going forward?

I see this format of the game with different perspective rather than just the financials. We believe that the club / IPL format provides the budding cricketers to showcase their talent and further hone their skills as they get an opportunity to play with and learn from experienced players. IPL has been a suitable platform to judge performance.

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