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Can Star Sports mass-popularise kabaddi with Pro Kabaddi League?

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Can Star Sports mass-popularise kabaddi with Pro Kabaddi League?

The much talked-about Pro Kabaddi League launched last week, is being promoted by celebrities all across the country. While Kabaddi has some recognition in the international arena, it fails to connect with the Indian youth of today. Given Star Sports’ attempt to recreate the lost glory of the game, does kabaddi have the potential of getting as many eyeballs as cricket in India?

Star Sports released an aggressive promotional campaign for the league. The 60 match tournament will be telecast across  STAR channels. With an initial launch of 10-second teasers with the tagline #Guessthegame, the campaign moved on to releasing over 15 TVCs including teasers, mini reveals and thematic campaigns, created by Ogilvy & Mather. The network also roped in Salman Khan as part of the promotional campaign, a co-promotion for his movie Kick.

“It was no longer cool and this was our biggest challenge.” Through the ‘Life is Kabaddi’ campaign, Ogilvy and Mather attempts to engage the youth at an emotional level with this intrinsically Indian game to make them see the game in a whole new light, said a spokesperson from Ogilvy.

The campaign

“The ‘Life is Kabaddi’ films are a take on how situations in life are akin to playing a game of Kabaddi. Often you may face unpleasant or unfair situations in life but success/ victory goes to those who don’t give up. We juxtaposed such unpleasant/ unfair situations to a game of kabaddi – where one ‘raider’ enters the enemy territory alone, fends off multiple defenders and returns unscathed to his home team. We depicted two relatable life situations – precious home-made food in a hostel under threat from bullies and littering in the park,” the spokesperson from Ogilvy stated.

Two videos were released on television, where the main thought was to draw a parallel between the spirit of the game and life. The first video showed how a group of elderly men together taught a lesson to a young guy who littered the streets and made him aware of his mistake. The second film shot in a school campus showed how a young boy being bullied by his school seniors, stood up to them. The two films were launched during the pre-show of the England-India Test series on Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 3, which exposed the Kabaddi league to a large cricket frenzy audience.


The League, which was flagged off on July 26, is promoted by industrialist Anand Mahindra and commentator Charu Sharma. It has franchise owners such as Radha Kapoor, daughter of Rana Kapoor, the chief of YES Bank; actor Abhishek Bachchan, media magnate Ronnie Screwvala and banker Uday Kotak.

The campaign is targeted at the eight franchise cities of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Patna, Pune, Vizag, Jaipur and Bengaluru. Aggressive hoardings have been used to drive the campaign’s visibility in all these cities. The League has also booked spots on FM radio stations such as Radio Mirchi and others for the radio campaign which features an anthem composed by Dhruv Ghanekar.

Expert Speak

Ananda Ray, National Creative Director at Rediffusion Y&R, says, “Kabaddi, the sport, used to conjure up images of small groups of people playing the sport on a dusty field, with very few onlookers. These commercials not only bring some much needed glamour (since, often nothing legitimizes something like sheen does), but capture the danger, skill and thrill of this contact sport. The fact that the way they are shot fit into the typical ‘sport ad’ genre is perhaps deliberate – to give it as much legitimacy as one would, say, basketball. I had one quibble, however. That the two commercials play like two different edits of the same ad. See one, see both.”

Looks like Kabaddi is all set for a roaring image makeover. Its commercial success, now, depends on how young India treats the campaign.

Watch the videos here:

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