Pro Kabaddi League which began on July 26 has aroused everyone’s curiosity and has received quite the amount of buzz. Even Amul recently came up with an ad illustration of the event. Star Sports, the broadcaster for the games, claims that it has received more than 6 million tweets from different hashtags in just 12 hours of the broadcasting of the tournament. Whether true or not, the success of it will truly be determined by the viewership ratings it receives. With the event running high on initial curiosity, questions arise whether this will continue throughout the tournament.
Brands sit on the fence
Brands are still waiting and watching to see the response for the tournament.
Speaking on this Mallikarjun Das, CEO India, Starcom MediaVest Group said, “First of all I don’t think there are too many brands which are there on (Pro) Kabaddi League. I am not even aware of who (brands) are there right now. I think it is too early to think about brands right now because first of all the content need to establish itself. Kabaddi needs to prove itself as a spectator sport on television that is the first thing we need to see. Whether it can attract the eyeballs, what are the kind of audiences its is going to attract, whether it is urban or small town audiences, is it going to be certain parts of India where kabaddi has been historically popular like Punjab and Haryana and who is the real audience that is going to view it? These are all the questions that need to be answered before seeing what brands will expect out of the league.”
One of the main reasons for brands still undecided is the fact that the audience still remains largely unknown for this new sport for TV audiences. That’s the way all brands operate says Balakrishna P.M., COO, Allied Media, Percept Group. “We have to see what kind of audience really watches it and the consistency with which people watch it. Maybe the first day is curiosity. But one will have to see whether it is followed like a league as a sport on television and what kind of numbers it delivers,” he added.
There also remains an apprehension among brands whether sports other than cricket will do well to garner enough viewership and following to back it up.
Tarun Nigam, Director, PM Media Solutions said, “We can’t be sure about it because we have had investments running over onto (sports) like hockey or badminton but both of them have not been a success. But with Kabaddi there might be a good chance for success because it has some local flavor to it.”
Chance for smaller brands to enter
Though bigger brands might wait and watch for the numbers to show up, smaller brands are eyeing this as an opportunity for them to associate with a sporting event in a hope that it might be successful in grabbing eyeballs.
U-Mumba (the Mumbai team franchise) sponsor, Peyush Bansal, CEO, Lenskart said, “Overall I think there is good value for money. I think India would see a lot of growth in these non-cricket leagues. Especially, because bigger brands take up everything, so for startups and younger brands like us these sports are a good opportunity to sort of enter that space and build an association. Because for IPL the premium that this would come up will be very high and they can have the Cokes and the Unilevers of the world.”
Similarly, Dogspot.in, which recently announced its association with the event also looks at it as an opportunity for them to be associated with a sport without having to pay exorbitant sponsorship rates as in IPL.
Rana Atheya, CEO, DogSpot.in said, “Anything which goes on national television and is a national sport and we expect it will create awareness, especially for niche brands like us and for those brands that need to get to the next level. The kind of response that we see is increased brand awareness and is one thing which we are looking at is the target audience.”
However, Das does not agree with smaller brands association to the sport because of the cost factor. “Just because the outlay is less does not mean you sponsor it. One needs to see to see whether there is a fit. Before that what is the kind of ratings, what is the accountability that my investment is going to deliver on it, what is the kind of audiences that I am getting and so on and so forth. I look it through the lenses of a media planner. I should see what the audiences are, which will be out soon,” he said.
At the moment most of the teams too are finding it tough to get sponsors. For instance Kishore Biyani’s Future Group which owns the Bengal franchise (Bengal Warriors) has just about managed to get its own group companies (Future Generali and Chings) as their sponsors.
Though there maybe optimism about this traditional sport doing well among viewers, the tournament is struggling for sponsorship during its first edition. With the ratings of rural areas (a key area where higher viewership is expected) not being taken into consideration because of it not being measured, the ratings of the Pro Kabaddi League are not expected to produce the numbers needed for brands to jump of the fence and join in. Further, the only super stars that this sport has are the ones on the stands and not in the sport. “The other thing for Kabaddi is also the fact that there are no super heroes in it right now. For badminton we had a Saina Nehwal, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa. the prevalence of some sort of a super star is lacking in kabaddi right now. Today the celebrities in kabaddi are only in the audience; the people who have brought the teams and not the players,” added Das.