Why are brands betting big on PKL?

The most popular sports in India after cricket, PKL this year has witnessed a high level of attention from brands despite there being big broadcast events such as IPL, Cricket World Cup and elections

e4m by Dolly Mahayan
Updated: Aug 13, 2019 8:55 AM



Pro Kabbadi League (PKL), over the years, has been able to establish itself as the next-best alternative to Indian Premier League (IPL) for advertisers, attracting several brand collaborations and sponsorships.

Big brands such as Honda, Gillette, Ultratech Cement, TVS Motors and Bajaj Electricals have already partnered with the league. This year, Flamingo and Reforce are the first-time sponsors of the league.

Considered as the most popular sports in India after cricket, the homegrown kabaddi tournament this year has witnessed a high level of attention from brands despite there being back-to-back big broadcast events such as IPL, Cricket World Cup and General Elections.

PKL this year managed to retain most of the advertisers that it had last year, both on-air and on-ground. Brands such as UltraTech Cement, Tata Motors and Dream 11 continued their association with the sporting property for this season also. According to the GroupM- ESP Properties Sporting Nation VI report, brands have contributed Rs 90 crore to the central sponsorship of PKL.

We spoke to some official sponsors of PKL to understand their views on why the league is becoming one of the most preferred ones for brands.

Vivo is the title sponsor of PKL for the third consecutive year this time. Nipun Marya, Director, Brand Strategy, Vivo India, says sports sentiment in India has changed rapidly in the past decade. “When a brand associates with a sport, it primarily aims to get good ROI in terms of viewership, brand recall, visibility and so on. All this adds up to brand salience in the long run. If we look at the growth trajectory of PKL, it offers a brilliant opportunity to connect with our audience effectively. The advantage of being a homegrown game is instrumental in creating a long-lasting impact with a high recall,” elaborates Marya.

He adds, “With top-class production and broadcast hours, Vivo PKL acts as a viable platform for brands to connect with various stakeholders effectively and create a long-lasting impact with a high recall. The six successful seasons of PKL is a testimony that the masses have yet again embraced a truly indigenous sport.”

According to UT Ramprasad, Head Marketing Communications, CVBU, Tata Motors, “With the advent of Pro Kabaddi League, kabaddi as a sport has gained huge popularity. PKL itself is the most popular non-cricketing tournament in the country. Since the launch, the league has grown substantially in terms of viewership as well as in terms of brand equity. The fast-paced game with the added glamour and colour gives high visibility and appeal.”

Tata Motors recently launched a TVC ‘DeshKeTruck’, which featured PKL players along with Tata Motors’ range of commercial vehicles. The video promoted during PKL matches further cascaded on to the social media handles with hashtags such as #DeshKeKhiladi #DeshKeTruck #PKL.

However, brand expert N Chandramouli, who is the CEO of market research firm Trust Research Advisory, has a word of caution for the brands wanting to associate themselves with any league. “PKL got success very quick. The sport got a large following from the word go, till a point where it was even played in pubs at peak hours. But not all leagues have been so lucky. Several of them have been floundering, trying to get an audience and therefore sponsors. A brand, however, has to be careful to choose a league that fits into its personality and creates a buying propensity.”

So how does associating with a sport drives conversation with the target group and increases brand recall value?

According to Ramprasad, PKL is a perfect platform and a significant bridge for Tata Motors to reach out to various stakeholders at large. “As a brand, we have been very aggressive when it comes to brand campaigns, both online as well as offline. Tata Motors has believed in building an emotional connect with its customers,” he says.

Initially, there were doubts regarding the success of the tournament. But now, it has become the second most popular sporting league in the country in terms of viewership.

But in what ways does it fulfill the requirements of the marketers?

It offers marketers enviable opportunities to intertwine in-venue and in-broadcast spots, opines Marya. “Its ability to offer synchronicity across these mediums drives a high return on investment that is hard to match,” he adds.

Brands try to leverage the platform to engage with their target audience through various engagement activities. “For example, vivo commercials are seamlessly integrated during the broadcast without taking a commercial break. Similarly, we have in-stadium branding of Vivo, virtual product launches during the Vivo PKL. All this allows us to raise awareness about our products and create high brand recall with our target audience,” he explains further.

Chandramouli, meanwhile, feels that such associations only help improve recall for brands to launch, as during such leagues, the sport often takes precedence over the brand.

“To create more value, leagues have to create opportunities for the sponsors to engage with the audience more, and beyond the game.”


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