STAR India's experiment with bringing the game of Kabaddi into the limelight has seen the broadcaster execute an aggressive marketing campaign. According to data from TAM subscribers week 31 (July 27 - August 2), viewership for the first eight days has reached 72.5 million. World Kabaddi League, has just commenced on Sony SIX.
Skepticism on Kabaddi still persists
One of the key reasons for brands to remain cautious about associating with World Kabaddi League is the skepticism of Pro Kabaddi League’s success. Though STAR India has claimed that their venture into Kabaddi has been successful, many marketers and brands still have their doubts. One of the reasons for their skepticism lies in the fact that most of viewership came from the Star Gold channel which they say has default viewership.
According to Mayank Shah, Dy. Marketing Manager, Parle Products said, "It is a little early to say that (Pro Kabaddi League has been successful), honestly speaking. It would take some time before it would really catch up. If you look at the current ratings as well you can look at it two ways. They (STAR India) claim that they have ratings above 72 million. It is not the ratings of Star Sports, it is the cumulative ratings of the League on Star Sports and Star Gold and about 75% to 80% of the ratings come from Star Gold. Star Gold is an established movie channel getting default ratings there, you cannot really compare it. I wouldn't read too much into it and say that it has really succeeded. If at all, assuming the Pro Kabaddi League has been successful and it has become popular and increased the popularity of the game, it should have seen good ratings on Star Sports as well, but that never happened. I think we should give it some more time before we really comment on whether it has picked up or not."
Amit Tiwari, Director, Country Head, Media, Philips India said, "It is an exaggeration. My perspective is that it has not done well and has not even got the basic eyeballs or the basic viewership ratings. Basically for the last five years Champions League (T20) has been in India and if you take the average ratings of TVT of Champions League (T20) it still has not reached the basic considered expectations level of higher deliveries. It is a number one sport and with a format of T20 which is a fast and furious format, still it has not been able to generate that eyeballs. In kabaddi, there are celebrity faces and promotions but will they translate into eyeballs? Will it translate into interest? I think it is too early to say."
So are brands looking at the World Kabaddi League as a serious option to consider? Amit Ghatak, GM Marketing, CavinKare said, " No level recognition is there and we are not much aware of it and it's not in our media plan. It is at the very initial state, let's see how it will shape up."
Still wait and watch for World Kabaddi League
Sony SIX which has signed the rights for the new World Kabaddi League for one year is still looking to see how the League does especially in the north Indian markets.
Prasana Krishnan, Business Head, Sony SIX said, "The main brand which has come on board as title sponsor is Wave. We are going to be more conservative and careful initially because it is the start. We just want to see the potential and get the viewer experience and traction sorted rather than just go and pick up inventory at any cost and overload the viewer experience. So our focus currently is to establish this sport from a viewer perspective. We will want to get the event on air first to see how it works and then look towards the monetization side when the event comes back to India. Because right now the first two rounds are in UK and it goes on to other international venues before it comes back India for back to back matches."
However, there are brands who have sponsored the Pro Kabaddi League that remain optimistic about World Kabaddi League and other such leagues.
Delhi Dabang team's associate sponsor in the Pro Kabaddi League, Pranav Ansal, MD, Ansal API said, " In sports cricket has been overdone. We have so many people in this country. People want more sporting options when sports is picking up in the country. I have not studied it or evaluated it but whoever does it better will get better sponsors."
"I think there is no matrix to measure it (performance of kabaddi leagues). So I don't think it is saying where it is good, bad or ugly, the people who are promoting and have invested in it will always say it has done wonders. No one has actually seen the real litmus test. There has to be some yard stick and matrix to measure as to whether it has been successful or not and what improvement needs to be done," says Tiwari.
With doubt on the success of the Pro Kabaddi League still riding high on brands, the World Kabaddi League seems far from receiving a good response from brands during its first installment. Also, with this league being overseas for the first few weeks, viewership is expected to take a hit and only pick up during the last leg of the tournament when it finally returns to India.