Is the title sponsorship for Pro Kabaddi League a hard egg to crack?

As Star retains the title sponsorship to the 2nd edition of Pro Kabaddi League, a handful of other brands come on board as associate sponsors. Is this a strategic decision by Star or is the deal tough to crack?

e4m by Collin Furtado
Updated: Jun 10, 2015 8:30 AM
Is the title sponsorship for Pro Kabaddi League a hard egg to crack?

The second season of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is all set to start on July 18. In its first season, the traditional Indian sport which had been on the decline had gained popularity not only in tier II and tier III cities as presumed earlier but also from the top metros. Viewership for the league reached 128 million viewers with an all India average 0.9 TVRs on a CS4+ TG, with ratings from metros being higher.

The interest from brands for PKL is said to have grown this year according to senior media planners and some brands are currently in talks for an association with the league. The sponsorship rates for the teams and the tournament have also increased. The title sponsorship rights was pegged at Rs.18 crore (Rs.180 million) according to the GroupM ESP- Sportz Power report, which puts it on par with the ISL. However, media reports suggest an estimate of Rs.20 crore for title sponsorship, which Star India had decided to retain. While associate sponsorships include five brands i.e. Bajaj Electricals, TVS Motors, Thums Up, VIP and Flipkart that have tied-up with Star India and could extend to 7 brands says a media report. Some of the brands we could see this year would be Mahindra and Samsung which are currently in talks regarding an association with the league said a senior media planner. Similarly, the team sponsorship which was pegged at Rs.5 - 15 lakh on an average, has now gone up to Rs.1 – 1.5 crore for top teams. 

According to some media planners the decision of Star to retain the title sponsorship rights could be because they may want to see the tournament grow bigger and not want to settle for a lower price. On the other hand they say that perhaps marketers at the moment would not be ready to make an investment as large as Rs.20 crore for a sport like Kabaddi. A media report also suggested that a handset manufacturer was interested in the title sponsorship but its offer was lower than Star’s expectations. “Nobody would relate to Kabaddi and Rs.20 crore ticket size at the moment, it is not cricket at the end of the day. So at the moment it is very difficult for marketers or for that reason advertising agencies to relate to a figure of Rs.20 crore of being the title sponsor. But the reason why Star is retaining that is they still want to promote the event and play it up, fill in the gaps and so in year three they might open this and make it big. They will have a lot of data to support it and then they can go out in the market and say the reason why they are asking for Rs.20 crore because we are delivering so many eyeballs,” said Dinesh Vyas, GM, OMD.

Similarly, Mukti Kumaran, West Head, MEC said, “The viewership Star received due to this property is huge and this will translate into building a strong platform for the future. It is, thus, beneficial for Star to retain the title Sponsorship at the cost accruing to them. Viewers of the previous season had little or no understanding of the sport. Star is indulging in an intelligent strategy of investing in educating the viewers before season 2 begins - this is a great idea because it will further connect the viewer to the platform.”
Though the title sponsorship is retained by Star at the moment, the associate sponsors are expected to get in net revenues of Rs.45-50 crore stated a media report. However, this was not the case as in the first edition only a handful of brands were seen as sponsorships. Some of the brands sponsoring various teams for last season included Fevicol, Bajaj Electricals, Emami, Lenskart, Future Generali, Chings and Shakti Pumps. Other brands on PKL last year included Amul and IDBI. Scepticism over the league’s performance had a lot of bigger brands adopting a wait and watch stance. As a result we saw many smaller brands on board. Some of these brands were sponsors as a result of the parent companies or owners of the companies buying stake in the team franchise. This included the brands like Future Generali and Ching’s which are a part of Kishore Biyani Group ( owner of Future Group who owns the Kolkata team Bengal Warriors).

The League has a lot of corporate owners and industrialists as owners of the teams. Apart from Kishore Biyani, there was Uday Kotak, Executive Vice Chairman & MD, Kotak Mahindra Bank (owner of the Pune team), Radha Kapoor (owner of Dabang Delhi team) who is the daughter of Rana Kapoor, MD & CEO, Yes Bank, Ronnie Screwvala, Entrepreneur, Founder of UTV Group & Unilazer Ventures (owner of the Mumbai team U Mumba). Apart from this industrialist Anand Mahindra, Chairman & MD, Mahindra Group owns stake in Marshal Sports which owns the PKL property. Many of the larger brands today have a more optimistic outlook for the PKL this season after the performance of last year.

Nandini Dias, CEO, Lodestar UM said, “I am very bullish about (Pro) Kabaddi. I have invested quite a bit last year too and as a group IPG Media Brands may have been the largest investor in (Pro) Kabaddi last year. Frankly it did much better than everybody else predicted and our clients were laughing all the way to the bank. So this year we have already started talks and closed a couple of deals.”

Ronita Mitra, SVP, Brand & Consumer Insights, Vodafone India said, “I agree that the property (PKL) did really well last year and took everyone by surprise. The good thing is that it is opening up space in this country beyond just cricket and creating interest in sports beyond just cricket. It is a positive sign that the property did so well last year. We however are still evaluating an on-air presence if it maps out with our campaign calendar and if we have any campaign on-air at that time. So we really have to look at both whether the calendar matches with our campaign calendar and whether it will have a significant role of any kind of reach for us in our campaign calendar for any campaign at that time.”

Kamal Bali, MD, Volvo India said, “At the end of the day it is also about inclusion and I think there are a number of activities which were not included in the mainstream. So when we talked of sports it used to be typically cricket. I think PKL is a very good idea and we fully support it as an idea. This will catch on and more sports like this will come into the fray.”

Though marketers are still hesitant to spend on put a large investment like Rs.20 crore on PKL at the moment, we could expect to see more brands investing in smaller amounts in the league this season.

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