“Pro Kabaddi League is watched by about 77- 78% of the urban audiences in India”

“Pro Kabaddi League is watched by about 77- 78% of the urban audiences in India”

Pivotal insights on Pro Kabaddi League's rise, brand partnerships, and caravan format.

Pro Kabaddi League

Mumbai: In an insightful interaction, Professional Management Group COO Melroy D’Souza in conversation with Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO & editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari, speaks about how the upcoming edition of Pro Kabaddi League provides an unmissable opportunity for advertisers to drive brand and business impact.

Edited excerpts

India’s second biggest sporting league – Pro Kabaddi League enters its tenth season this year, having reached several incredible milestones through the years. What has led to the transformation of this homegrown sport into such a high-octane experience?

Kabaddi is one of India's oldest sports that has been played over the years across India. Kabaddi was a sport which already had an audience but because it was not exciting, people didn't play it. The way Pro Kabaddi League formatted it, the way viewers bought into it, really excited a lot of people. The second thing about Kabaddi which has worked, as you know people generally like to watch the best talent on display, and Kabaddi has done that. PKL got the best players in the world playing. The content that we consume, the content that we see is the best in its category. Third is the technology and the innovations that Pro Kabaddi League bought into the sport. A 10-12 camera setup, jazzy lights, and music, it all adds to the experience. People had never seen something like that before. You have some of India's biggest names who support kabaddi. You have Mahindra Singh Dhoni who has been a brand ambassador. You have Virat Kohli, Amitabh Bachchan, we have various film promotions and various cricketers who have come on board. So that leads to the whole glamour of it hence the content piece of it people want to see that. Last thing of course we got the backing of Star. There's a huge media promotion with media trust in it. When the PKL season starts, it's like a festival happening. I think all of this has added to the league and it is what is built on it.

What are some of the key reasons why the league has managed to capture the imagination of viewers across the length and breadth of the country, especially among the youth and metro city audiences

If you see the growth graph of Pro Kabaddi League, it started off as a very popular league into tier two and tier three. But if you see the last 2-3 years' data, you'll see that it's also now coming into the urban fold. It's also being watched by about 77- 78% of the urban audiences as well. Now, this has happened because of multiple factors. You had a movie like Student of the Year, which actually used Kabaddi in its final scene. If you look at the Bournvita ad, they use Kabaddi as a medium to show ‘Tayyari Jeet Ki’. In no time it came into the main fold media. Third, one of the key things about Pro Kabaddi League is the format. Kabaddi, as a sport, is played for 40 minutes, so the duration is shorter. When the duration is shorter, the attention span is much larger, unlike a football or cricket. Also because the sport is so filled with action, it tends to stick to it much longer than any other sport. If I'm not mistaken, Pro Kabaddi League has the highest time spent per viewer across sporting leagues.

As someone that has played a pivotal role in creating a synergy between PKL and advertisers over the years, what differentiates PKL from other mediums in terms of ways that brands can leverage the property to drive high-scale impact?

One of the biggest pluses of PKL is that it is one of the few leagues which gives advertisers on-ground, on-air, social media and digital presence. When a brand associates with PKL, it is not just visible from assets like perimeter boards etc, but you also get on-air inventory and social media bundled into it. On top of that, you have features, you have activations, you have celebrity quotient, you have awards, trade promotions, contests, fan engagement, all of that comes together. From a brand perspective, it's a wholesome association. If you see the media mix, any brand which is present on-air, on-ground and online together will always create a much higher impact than when it is done in isolation. I think that works wonders.

On PKL onboarding Dhani, the integration of the brand blended in, its proposition and the kind of impact the brand witnessed as a result

At the point when they came onboard Pro Kabaddi League, Dhani was giving loans and their key target audience was tier two and tier three cities. When they came to us, it was not a very well-known brand. It had to create brand equity for itself. Secondly, the most important thing for them was they wanted a call to action. They wanted someone to pick up the phone and call them and say listen, I will be dispersing loans, how do you disperse loans? Keeping this in mind and keeping our experience of doing CEAT Strategic Time Out on IPL, we said why don't we adopt the same format to PKL? One is we create a differentiator; we do something with no one has ever done on PKL. It was the first time ever we had a strategic timeout, on PKL we got to the Dhani strategic timeout. Second is you have a verbal and a visual mention of it. So when a viewer watches it becomes easier for him to connect what it is, and the phone number given on that for a call to action. During the tournament in just a couple of weeks, the call to action drastically increased for Dhani. The number of calls that we would get before the PKL started compared to what they got once PKL started, increased to almost 30-40% more than what they were getting. They were extremely happy to see that there is an instant gratification to what we are doing. I think in that sense, it worked beautifully.

PKL is the only league wherein as a central sponsor you get access to talent (players across teams), and with players becoming household names how do you think brands can use these sons of the soil?

One of the best examples of PKL being used rightly by a brand is if you remember the AMFI commercial which we had done, they have a beautiful integration of the players and the brand messaging. They said, listen tier two and tier three people are still not very aware of mutual funds. They said they want people to communicate about not just using mutual funds on how easy it is to use mutual funds, and how safe it is to use mutual funds. They wanted people who are regular people who they relate to. They tied up with PKL for this particular purpose. While they did the hygiene ground branding and LED branding, they also did beautiful commercials which gave us messaging. They leveraged players from across teams to talk about their various features, how safe it was, how easy it was. I mean that that would be the best case-study.

This season PKL is going back to the 12-city caravan format across the nation. How beneficial is this for brands associating with PKL in terms of having broader access to key stakeholders like Consumers and Trade Partners?

The key for any brand or for any sport is the fans. As long as you have fans who love the sport coming and supporting it, that means the sport is in a healthy state. With PKL going back to the caravan format to every city that has a team, this will allow the fans of that city to come out and express themselves and support their team. The moment that happens, the vibrancy that happens in that city completely changes. There's a lot of buzz at the ground level. It gives a lot of opportunity for advertisers who have invested in the team to try and leverage the players at a local level. You have a lot more meetings and we have a lot more consumer engagement. Generally, it is seen that whenever a tournament happens in a particular city, that city and surrounding areas come to life. In that sense overall, I think this will benefit.