Connecting brands with India’s heartland, PKL ad spends see 10% growth YoY

Hardly has the hype – and the huge disappointment – over cricket subsided, when the nation is ready for another adrenalin rush with the 7th edition of Vivo Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). In its seven years of existence, PKL has successfully been able to turn this rustic game into a major spectator sport. 

The Pro Kabaddi League today is the second most followed league on Indian television after the Indian Premier League. PKL spans over 3 months and is increasingly getting the urban youth to pick up the sport with several changes made in its format and turning it into a competitive contact sport. 

Commencing on July 20, this edition of PKL will see a completely new format and a return to the original PKL calendar of July-October, along with an early start time of 7.30 pm and the double round-robin with a clear focus on achieving an equitable league table. 

Mashal Sports, the organiser of Vivo PKL, and Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the league, are leaving no stone unturned to make Season 7 of the league a major success. To build up buzz around the tournament, a PKL All-Star match was held on July 13, 2019, which saw the best of Indian players take on the best of International talent. 

Season 5 of the league was viewed by a staggering 313 million viewers. The inaugural day of the league registered a cumulative reach of 50 million viewers. The first two weeks, keeping up with immense viewer interest attracted over 165 million viewers to witness the category defining league across Star Sports’ rich bouquet of channels. At the end of Season 5, gross impressions for India’s most watched non-cricketing league stood at 3.3 billion, with a watch time of 100 billion minutes. In new markets such as Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and PHCP (regions) witnessed significant increase in viewership, with Tamil Nadu being the most successful new market with a 3.6x growth in ratings. 

Needless to say, PKL has become a major platform for brands to engage their consumers as well, with growing ad spends and activations. 

Agency Speak 

Adgully spoke to Mohit Joshi, Managing Director, Havas Media Group India, and Vinit Karnik, Business Head - Entertainment, Sports & Live Events at GroupM, to track the growth of the PKL property over the years, how brands are leveraging this platform, year on year growth in ad spends and much more. 

How are brands now leveraging PKL teams for promotions and their regional impact?

Mohit Joshi, Managing Director, Havas Media Group India
Mohit Joshi, Managing Director, Havas Media Group India

Mohit Joshi: 80 per cent of the viewership for non-cricket live sports comes from properties like Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League, Premier Badminton League, and Hockey India League. Pro Kabaddi League is the most popular non-cricket property among others. Kabaddi as a sport appeals to the rural audience in India and has unlocked a huge potential for brands to reach out to the people there. Another reason is its cost, which is significantly lower in comparison to cricketing properties, hence the potential to tap into them at this price is very attractive for brands. Over the years brands have started leveraging not just the sport but the teams as well. The seriousness can be seen with the latest move of Patna Pirates roping in Neetu Chandra as the brand ambassador. 

Vinit Karnik: Over the past few years, kabaddi has not only grown as a sport but also as a brand that has scaled up the audience gamut. Brands are leveraging PKL teams on a wide scale. While the league has become one of the marquee sporting properties on TV and has attracted national advertisers, the teams have done a great job in plugging in the regional connect and local activations which help brands in engaging consumers with geographical focus.  

Which brands are investing in PKL teams?

 Vinit Karnik, Business Head - Entertainment, Sports & Live Events at GroupM
Vinit Karnik, Business Head - Entertainment, Sports & Live Events at GroupM

Mohit Joshi: Many brands have invested in the PKL teams. One of our clients, Tata Motors, has associated with Team UP Yoddha. 

Vinit Karnik: A plethora of brands are getting associated with the PKL teams. Brands that are focusing on geographical engagement are looking to activate the team’s assets and strengths in their catchment area by developing a local outreach programme. Himalaya Men, Captain Morgan, Castrol, UltraTech are a few of our brands who have reaped benefits of central and team sponsorship. 

What categories of brands are mostly seen associating with PKL?
Mohit Joshi: Kabaddi is all about power and strength. Brands which operate in this domain have a common fit. 

Vinit Karnik: From auto to FMCG, grooming to electronics and fuel to hospitality – there is no category that does not want to be associated with this sensation called PKL. Given the growing popularity of kabaddi, India has the potential to be a multi-sports country. With billions of impressions, PKL has achieved a great deal of popularity and built a sustained audience base, giving brands a massive platform to leverage. 

How has PKL emerged as a media property and how are other brands now attracted to the franchise?
Mohit Joshi: PKL 2018 saw more than 70 brands on board collectively on central and team sponsorships. Vivo, Tata Motors, BKT Tyres, Amazon, Bajaj Electricals, Dream11, Gillette, Honda, RR Kabel, Ultratech, Britannia, McDowell’s and HDFC Life are some of the brands that have associated with PKL.  

Honda used the platform to launch their new Honda X-Blade bike, as the target audience for the bike resonated with that of the PKL. 

Tata Motors and Dream11 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. 

What are the overall ad spends of brands on PKL and the year on year growth of the sport?
Mohit Joshi: Overall ad spends on PKL are roughly Rs 14 core-Rs 15 crore per year, with a 10 per cent increase year on year. 

Vinit Karnik: From Season 1 to Season 7, PKL has landed a multi-year title sponsorship deal, powered by the sponsor and minimum 8+ sponsors on an average post Season 1. This showcases the advertisers’ confidence in the property. 

What does PKL mean to brands as a platform?
Mohit Joshi: PKL today has proven to be a strong, stable sporting platform for brands which want to connect with the roots of India. 

Vinit Karnik: PKL has its own charm among the sports leagues of today. Brands have tremendous opportunities to grow with every PKL season. Kabaddi provides more deep and natural roots into the heartland of India, something that other sports might not match up to. The beauty of PKL as a platform is a single rights-holder for both on-ground and on-air assets. If brand sponsorships objectives are defined well, this helps unlock multiple value proposition and build a great ROI for every rupee sent. Which means, on-air exposure takes care of audience buying, on ground engagement takes care of audience and stakeholder relationship. 

Brand campaigns for PKL.
Vinit Karnik: Last season of PKL brands saw quite a few brand campaigns. Brands like UltraTech Cement, Honda, and Thums Up associated themselves with the platform. PKL also supported AMFI in popularising the ‘Mutual Funds Sahi Hai’ campaign by getting PKL players to advocate the initiative. UltraTech also created quite a stir through an AR innovation in live content during the playoff stage in PKL last season. 

Brand Speak 

Arijeet Talapatra, CEO, Transsion India
Arijeet Talapatra, CEO, Transsion India

Giving a brand’s perspective is Arijeet Talapatra, CEO, Transsion India. Transsion Holdings, which owns the itel smartphone brand, is the ‘Official Partner’ PKL team UP Yoddha for Season 7. itel aims to utilise its strength as a mass brand and kabaddi as a mass sport, to build long term associations with the consumers.

Please elaborate your association with UP Yoddha?
We are very excited about our partnership with UP Yoddha. This is the 3rd year they will be in the Pro Kabaddi League. They have been playing very well and they reached the qualifying round last year. 

Uttar Pradesh has been a very prominent market for us. We are very strong in the less than 5K segment and in this segment Kabaddi is extremely popular. So we thought of associating with UP Yoddha as both the team and the sport is being followed across the country. We also have many marketing activities around this association. 

How are you leveraging the association with UP Yoddha for promotions and what’s the regional impact?
We will be doing 360 degree marketing and we will have some promotions around the stadiums where the matches will be held. Apart from that we will have a huge digital campaign as today’s youth is all about digital. We will do many digital campaigns, outdoor campaigns which will include OOH, in-store and around the market place activation. The team will also be associated with our channel partners because we have around 1,000 channel partners at Itel and 1 lakh retailers. So, we will do a lot of engagement this season with the UP Yoddha team as it is a big season. 

The regional impact is that we will be doing all this in UP and we will also be doing this across markets because the team will be having both Home and Away matches. During the Away matches, which will be across the country, we will create a lot of buzz for the team along with engagement of our channel and trade in those markets. 

Why did you decide to associate with UP Yoddha as a team specifically?
UP Yoddha is a young brand and this will be their 3rd year. Transsion is a young company too. We are very strong in UP and it is a key market for us. UP, the population is very high and the Tier 3, 4 and 5 markets have huge opportunity and potential. We have 50 channel partners 10,000 retailers in UP. We want to further penetrate into these markets and all the other markets other than UP too will have a huge impact because of our digital campaign. UP Yoddha has been playing very well and we have huge expectations with the team this season. 

From a marketing perspective, why is this association important?
This season is going to be a 3-month season which will be telecast live. We have both the shoulders of the jersey where we have the Itel logo. Viewership is massive along with our 360 degree campaign will further promote the Itel brand which is already doing very well.


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