The curious case of how Vivo Pro Kabaddi became a marketing marvel

Shubhranshu Singh, Executive Vice President and Head-Marketing-Sports, Star India, shared what went into the designing the marketing strategy including #LePanga campaign while changing the perception of the sport

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jun 29, 2017 8:25 AM

In a market where perception was more important than reality, Shubhranshu Singh, Executive Vice President and Head-Marketing-Sports, Star India,  shared what went into designing the marketing strategy and positioning the sport while overcoming the barriers at Vivo Pro Kabaddi League: Media Forum.

He spoke how the sport has not been celebrated in urban pockets or it has been covered by media despite India’s participation in the Asian Games. “The perception was desi. It was less celebrated. We set the barrier as relevance,” he said.

Singh was confident about the product, courtesy 15-20 minutes of intense viewing of the games played at the Asian Games. “We knew we had a great product, which we are going to repackage and make it even greater. For those who think it’s uncool we had to present it as cool. For those who are unaware we have to educate them about the sport, take kabaddi to where they are and make them curious.”

However the big debate was who to pitch it to: the urban youth or heartland territory. Singh revealed, “Our conclusion was that we must bridge the gap. We must present it in a spectacular and intriguing manner, a manner which invites greater assessment without being shy that it’s Indian. This was the summary or beginning point or guide for the journey hereafter.”

While designing the marketing strategy for Pro Kabaddi League, he realised that people have a basic understanding of the game but much more needed to be done to explain game. 

Singh went on to mention how the property after being premiered for the first time garnered exceptional ratings after the end of season 1 of 37 days. “It’s already proven itself as the number 2 sport on TV. Across the world I can’t think of a sport which when arrives on TV takes on other sports that have been present (on TV) for decades and in one season of 30-35 days becomes the number 2 sport. After that we had three seasons in a space of 12 months out of which two were head-on-head with cricket.”

Singh also talked about getting the whole world to play the World Cup in Gandhinagar last year. He shared some statistics saying, “Kabaddi World Cup helped in elevating the stature. 11 crore saw the tournament out of 78 crores TV universe.”

He also laid emphasis on the blue uniform, which generally ‘India roots for.’ “Both on digital and across the country we were able to establish that in kabaddi we have another team that’s a consistent world beater that Indians can rally behind.”

The effort Singh and his team put in was definitely rewarded as the Indian media ‘lavished’ their property with lot of love and attention. “The whole editorial world was also responding,” he said.

Association with Bollywood stars Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Abhishek Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan, endorsements and barter deals also worked wonders for the property.  He shared, “Not very often in India you get to see Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan at the same sport.”

For crafting the campaign for season 2 Singh realised the need to bring product and advertisement positioning together. “We felt the need to be a bigger platform.”

He also talked about how they came up with the coin phrase ‘Le Panga’ (for #LePanga campaign) which has worked for them across markets last three seasons. “We must try to create a platform thought which is youthful and cues courage and action,” said Singh.

He also talked about how Amitabh Bachchan’s video for Pro Kabaddi League turned out to be the most cut through creative for the second season. “It helped us beef up Hindi-speaking market. The same season we saw Salman Khan endorsing ‘panga’ in his movie, which worked wonders for us.”

Later on they moved on to showcasing the sportsmen ‘individually as unit creatives’ in their campaigns. Singh adds, “Basically we were positioning it in two ends. This is a sport where great action, courage, daring majestic feats are encountered everyday and these are real sporting heroes.”

He also talked about another successful campaign which mocked other popular genres like serials, news and action movies where male audience tune into when they are not watching kabaddi. “This worked because we were contrasting what we were doing for kabaddi with what’s happening elsewhere. We were bold enough to lampoon (in a manner of speaking) of what’s happening across TV.” 

Singh also talked about roping in regional stars like Telugu actor Rana Daggubati and Punjabi actor Diljit Dosanjh as regional ambassadors to cater to relevant markets. “Each market was addressed with potent relevant message.” 

When it comes to demographics, Singh also spoke about the necessity of introducing the sport to kids since 40 crore of the population are born after the year 2000, which will bring them rich dividends. So kabaddi was explained in one of the popular shows Chhota Bheem. “54 per cent of viewership of kabaddi is coming from people who are less than 30 and it has amongst the highest catchment of women and children. To put things in perspective, the number of young kids who would watch kabaddi is 12 times than who would watch WWE.”

He also went on to speak on the success of Women’s Kabaddi Challenge. “Only eight matches delivered 9 crore reach. Only two women’s kabaddi matches got more viewers than all of Euro 2016. It shows the attention that the sport got,” he said.

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