Television

The Pro Kabaddi League triumvirate: High viewership, competitive costs, interesting brand collaboration options

PKL has grown disproportionately since its inception 2014

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MUMBAI: Over the years, kabaddi has not just grown as a sport but also has a brand that has cut across the audience spectrum, largely thanks to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). The PKL, pioneered by Star India, has grown leaps and bounds since its inception in 2014, clocking a cumulative watch time of over 100 billion minutes. This disproportionate growth has organically helped grow the popularity and acceptance of the sport throughout the country, making it the second most-followed sports league on Indian television after the Indian Premier League (IPL).

The latest season of the PKL kicks off in July on the back of the ICC World Cup. With cricket consuming much of the consumers’ headspace and advertising moolah, the PKL organisers could find drumming up support for the league a tad bit challenging this term. However, the year-on-year growth exhibited by the PKL in terms of viewership and brand collaborations is likely to fetch the makers desired results from the latest edition.

“In India, sports has become one of the major platforms to connect with people across masses as well as classes. For Tata Motors, India’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer, sports becomes a significant bridge to reach out to various stakeholders – drivers, fleet owners, dealers and distributors, media and the public at large. Our commitment is to act as a catalyst to promote home-grown sports like kabaddi, encourage and develop young and rising sporting talent, and enabling them to achieve their aspirations. For over 400 years, kabaddi has been inspiring people from across the country and we, at Tata Motors are determined to work with these top athletes by partnering with Pro Kabaddi League as an associate sponsor of the league as well as the UP Yoddha team as their principal sponsor.

“Kabaddi is a home-grown sport that reflects machismo, aggression, and endurance testing speed, agility and power, and is gaining popularity in India as well as globally. These attributes blend perfectly with the rich heritage, longevity, durability and robust performance of Tata Motors Commercial Vehicle. We are proud of this fruitful collaboration and look forward to using the power of sports to support and inspire young players to fulfil their potential. This remarkable partnership with PKL creates opportunities for us to thank and reward our loyal customers and to connect with more potential Commercial Vehicle customers across the country,” says Tata Motors Head, marketing and brand communications Commercial Vehicle Business Unit (CVBU) UT Ramprasad.

Brands, through the years, have developed an affinity for the PKL due to a simple reason. It offers them a solid visibility platform at a nominal cost as compared to cricket. That becomes an even more valuable proposition in a year like this when the IPL and World Cup account for a sizable chunk of ad spends. Moreover, the sport often considered a rural phenomenon, has now penetrated the country’s urban pockets.

“PKL 2018 saw more than 70 brands on board collectively on central and team sponsorship. Honda used the platform to launch its new Honda X-Blade bike, as the target audience for the bike resonated with that of the PKL. Tata Motors and Dream 11 built their association with the league by leveraging commercials involving well-known kabaddi players, who had the potential to appeal to their TG - urban and rural audiences in India,” states Havas Media managing director Mohit Joshi.

According to Madison Media Ultra CEO and Investments head Amol Dighe, PKL has now transformed into a high impact platform that helps deliver brand objectives. Brands are increasingly using it to build brand affinity and loyalty, advocacy and even consideration.

“Brands can leverage this platform as this is no longer a male domain. In fact, 40 per cent of the viewership is coming from females and rural is contributing significantly. This is in addition to a significant viewership on digital. The reach of PKL in AA 15+ has seen steady growth and has reached 213 million in All India Urban. Also, PKL has now expanded to 11 states with 12 franchises which gives a multi-state exposure to the brands. Brands like VIVO have used PKL for title sponsorship effectively. It’s now synonymous with the event,” he adds.

Advertisers who have been married to PKL since its inception, have hugely benefited from the long-standing relationship, argues Monk Media Network AVP brand strategy Tanya Mathana. However, she has a piece of advice for brand custodians. Nathan now wants them to think ‘lateral’ in order to leverage and extract more brand value through their PKL association.

“In addition to gaining advantage from the on-air visibility of the game, the on-ground rights, as well as the digital landscape, open up completely new dimensions of value creation for marketers. Opportunities like in-match experience zones, high impact activations done on the ground with players, the game and amplification through social media platforms could help,” she recommends.

Apart from the growing popularity of the league, another big potential investment instrument for advertisers are the rising stars of the game.

“These players are a huge asset to the brands that are targeting the masses and are struggling to be relevant to an audience set that is complex and challenging in nature. Most of the players coming from small towns with humble beginnings, who have now made it big in life, are driving both relevance and aspirational value among the target audience. Reaching out to the rural TG and speaking to them in a style and language that they identify with has been a big boost to the brands who are trying to tap the bottom of the pyramid through this association,” Nathan explains.

While PKL seems like an undoubted success story in India’s sporting ecosystem today, the league built its equity over a period of time purely on the back of value-creation for stakeholders. It took a while for advertisers to see the potential of the league with season 1 having hardly any major sponsors associated with it. Season 5, however, clocked in more than 120 brands represented across the league and the franchises.

“Vivo’s Rs 300 crore five-year deal as the title sponsor acted as the icing on the cake. Another major gainer was AMFI. It smartly integrated the game with the brand and its TG. PKL and its star players helped the brand connect with its audience (people looking to pay as low as Rs 500 a month on mutual funds). This effective marketing strategy of leveraging a format like PKL worked wonders for the brand and brought home 50 lakh new investors in a span of 12 months,” says Nathan.

“Other prominent big names like Gillette, TVS Motors, Bajaj Electricals, Indo Nissin, Ultratech cement, Lux Cozi, Castrol, and Royal Challenge Sports Drink, have been partnering with PKL and have seen greater returns, higher brand value creation and stronger brand patronage through their association with PKL, the next big wave in the sporting industry,” she points out.

The new PKL season could also serve as a welcome change and distraction from the cricket overdose. In a sense, it would be interesting to track the approach of brands in terms of their marketing spends and communication this year.

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