Star India & franchises set for Pro Kabaddi League season 3

MUMBAI: What Star India did for the Indian sport of Kabbadi is unprecedented. With the success that Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) has seen in a short span of time, it almost seems as if the game was a dark horse waiting to be saddled. From a flying bubble to an established entity, Star India CEO Uday Shankar and Mashal Sports director Charu Sharma’s PKL, which is all set for its third season, has clearly emerged as the undisputed second after cricket when it comes to sports in India.


Even as the maiden season in 2014 got a first-rate response, with the second season in 2015, the interest level had only escalated amongst fans and advertisers alike. Unrecognised names and faces suddenly became household names as Kabaddi players from various PKL franchises posed for selfies with fans. Such prodigious was the response that stakeholders didn’t bat an eyelid before making the tourney a bi-yearly proposition.


Smelling an attractive proposition, advertisers too queued up briskly. While the first season did not see brands on board, the second season snagged a hefty Rs 55 crore by roping in as many as eight associate sponsors and two partners.


PKL franchises also saw the benefits with Ronnie Screwvala’s UMumba breaking even before the team’s first raid.


With PKL season 3 set to kick-start from 3 February, the official broadcaster and title sponsor Star Sports has started unveiled its marketing trump cards. Amitabh Bachchan is back with the Le-Panga anthem with a few modifications. Salman Khan was spotted talking about the tournament getting bigger and better. Last year every match kick-started with a famous dignitary singing the Indian National Anthem. This year too, the trend will continue.


Aamir Khan will mark open the third edition of PKL by singing the National Anthem. “The entire Le-panga campaign has been orchestrated by Star Sports’ in-house team. We are associating with  brand ambassadors and will have specific videos with specific brand ambassadors,” a source close to the development tells


Multi-lingual telecast feed will also continue this year. However, the sportscaster has dropped the number of languages from five to four. While the English, Hindi, Kannada and Telegu feeds will continue, the Marathi coverage, which was there last year, has been dropped this year.


Brands like TVS, Bajaj, Flipkart, State Bank of India and Gionee have been roped in as associate sponsors. Fair and Lovely Men has also come on board as a partner.


“We are in talks with a few more brands and will soon be in a position to disclose more names. The brand interaction this year has been very good and we are expecting good numbers,” said a senior Star India official.


Speaking on the advertising dynamics for PKL, a media planning expert on condition of anonymity says, “Anything equal to what they raked in last year will be a great achievement, because PKL will now be held twice a year. The ad revenue from this year’s tourney will be somewhere between Rs 40 - 50 crore. An associate sponsor inventory will be between Rs 3 - 5 crore, whereas ad rates for a 10 second slot will be somewhere in the range of Rs 60,000 to 65,000.”


CAA KWAN COO Indranil Das Blah is of the opinion that the twice a year proposition is a progressive one. “The nature of the league is such that it ends very fast. So having such an expedition twice a year is a good move. It gives broadcasters as well as the franchises added room of monetisation. It is a positive move and will be beneficiary for all the stakeholders.”


The franchises too welcome the decision of making PKL a bi-yearly affair. “We are very happy that it’s happening twice a year now. It gives an added advantage of building the connect, both with brands and the audience. Apart from the associations, with the tournament becoming a bi-yearly proposition, now we can have various value adds for brands associated with us, our team as well as fans. We plan to travel to various regions this year along with our team,” informs UMumba CEO Supratik Sen.


UMumba is the defending champion of the tournament and the franchise’s performance has been equally good on the commercial front too. “This year we are eying a 140 per cent growth in our sponsorship revenues. Global player Adidas has associated with us as apparel partner. This only goes to show that the tournament is garnering global attention,” adds Sen.


Close to 60 per cent of UMumba’s revenue comes from sponsorships, while ticketing contributes to 10 per cent of the overall revenue. The remaining 30 per cent comes from central revenue. 


A sports media planning expert says, “Ronnie and his team have done a fantastic job to uplift their brand value. Any brand associating with them knows for a fact that there will be high ROI and that’s why they get considerably high sponsorship revenue. Smart monetisation is what they practice. When they know they charge more, they enhance the inventory. To my knowledge, for a chest spot UMumba would be charging somewhere close to Rs 3 crore, which is a great figure. Overall from this edition they can rake in close to Rs 12 crore, which is a great return given the investments are not more than Rs 4 crore.”


Another franchise, which is optimistic about breaking even this year and has demonstrated constant growth is Bengaluru Bulls. The franchise rakes in 45 per cent of its revenue from sponsorship and ticketing, while the rest comes from central sponsorship. For a chest spot, the team charges close to Rs 2 crore. Bengaluru Bulls CEO Uday Sinh Wala says, “We are witnessing a 20 per cent growth, which I think should have been more but we have to understand the subdued nature of our economy at this stage and the enormous high profile cricket happening around us. However, I am sure that it will grow rapidly in the future.”


“The response to the bi-yearly proposition will be clearer when more seasons unfold but at this stage I can say that it’s a great move as it gives us an opportunity to endeavour into long term association with our clients,” he adds.


How the PKL juggernaut continues its sojourn over the coming years will be interesting to watch.

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