Star Sport’s Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) will flag off next week. Star’s newest sport property had a surprisingly successful first season, exceeding all expectations and the excitement from both advertiser and viewer side is high for the sophomore season.
In the first season, Star Sports had opted to not sell independent digital packages for advertisers but media agencies feel this will change this year. However, the buzz is that though there is interest, deals have yet to be closed. A couple of media planners even said that they have to still receive details about the digital advertising package from Star Sports.
From what we have learnt, the typical package has an asking price of Rs 25 lakh and includes logo and banner units along with pre-roll and mid-roll video ads on Hotstar and StarSports.com. It also allows the advertiser to associate with any one of three ‘special properties’, which include the Hotstar Dance Cam, Comic Audio Commentary on PKL highlights, etc.
On the digital front especially, it will be interesting to see how many advertisers actually spend money on advertisements. As of now, it seems only the associate sponsors will be the ones present on online properties like Starsports.com and Hotstar. Of course, this might change as deals get closed closer to the event. For example, a spokesperson for SBI said that their deliverables include a 360 degree bouquet including on-ground, logo placements, ads on digital properties, etc. He would not speak about the actual cost of sponsorship but one source suggested it would be anywhere between Rs 4-5 crore depending on the deliverables.
One of the complaints some brands had for previous sporting events like IPL and the ICC Cricket World Cup was that digital ad rates were too high and thus didn’t make financial sense.
According to Debraj Tripathy, MD at MediaCom India, the main reason for the current reluctance could be because Star Sports did not monetize the property on the digital front last year, which makes it a completely new platform for potential advertisers. “Star does sell digital properties independently so they will definitely do this for PKL too,” said Dinesh Vyas, GM at OMD. However, he was of the opinion that since the main TG is still from Tier II and Tier III cities, digital might not be as important.
“Though there is definitely an interest these days on platforms like Hotstar, etc. these will actually become important in the future as more people are on the move and on smartphones,” opined Ashish Bhasin, Chairman & CEO South Asia Dentsu Aegis Network, Chairman Posterscope and psLive (Asia Pacific).
Anand Chakravarthy, West Head of Maxus, had a differing view. He felt that platforms like Hotstar are making it easier for brands keen to ride on the growth of sports consumption in digital. He disagreed that high costs were an issue during the cricket season. “There were sponsorships (during the cricket season), which would be similar to TV buys where sponsors invest higher outlays to get guaranteed SOV. Since the TV IPL entry cost is high and HD was sold out, lot of our brands smartly used the digital sponsorships in IPL for driving brand/business outcome,” he added.
The PKL already has 5 associate sponsors in the form of VIP Frenchie, State Bank of India, Bajaj Electricals, TVS and Flipkart. Media agencies we spoke with said that another 2-3 associations could be expected nearer to the event.
This, despite the fact that Star Sports has yet to close a title sponsor. “What we had heard was that Star Sports was looking for Rs 24-25 crore for a title sponsorship but the interested party was willing to pay only about half. Maybe that is why they decided to keep it with themselves,” suggests Vyas.
However, he agreed that interest has been much higher from advertisers after “scepticism” in the first season. Bhasin said that though there has not been a “significant” interest by advertisers, there has been an increase as compared to last year. “In a cricket crazy country like India, that is the main sport so other sports generate less interest. It (PKL) will definitely do well this year, but you cannot compare it with a cricketing event,” he said.
Is the title sponsorship for Pro Kabaddi League a hard egg to crack?
Tripathy points out that most of the interest has been on the TV side. According to him, advertisers are also considering digital and team sponsorships but any concrete deals have yet to be worked out. However, he seemed confident that the situation would change in the coming few days.
Similar thoughts were expressed by Chakravarthy. “Season 1 of ProKabaddi League was interesting and generated lot of buzz among digital consumers. With growing snacking content consumption, this could be an interesting opportunity for marketers to leverage. We are seeing increased interest in on-ground opportunities as well as television for Pro Kabbaddi,” he said.