The sport of kabaddi is gradually catching people’s fancy with the introduction of Pro Kabaddi League. Massive campaigning around it has started making waves among audiences. The buzz is also supported by celebrities endorsing the sport.
From a marketing perspective, all eyes are on the tournament to see how it’s shaping up. Vinit Karnik, National Director, Sports and Live, GroupM ESP India says it's early days to react to the overall performance of the league. From a marketing stand point, it has been a great start. The first few games on ground saw great corporate and celebrity support. Since it’s not been even a week, the ratings have yet to come out and hence traction be gauged only then - both at stadium and television viewership level. It’s encouraging to see sports like these coming up and changing the sporting landscape in India, Karnik said.
Niche sports often have targeted or limited audiences. Karnik agrees that every type of content has its audience. “For me, a sports like kabaddi rests more in B-towns and the viewership and interest will start from grass root and build to an urban audience over time. There are always consumers of content – whether niche or mass and it’s a test of time whether it sustains that interest,” he explains.
For Pro Kabaddi league, to achieve popularity in terms of mass viewing as well as generating interest could be a challenge. Karnik thinks that from a media stand point and viewership, urban India has not being playing kabaddi for a long time. It’s a sport we may have played at school and left it at that. This becomes a challenge for the organizers to revive and sustain interest.
From a profiling point of view, kabaddi is largely considered a rural sport. Pro Kabaddi League has to overcome this and create a positive positioning in the minds of people, Karnik feels.
Big brands are yet to come on board as sponsors for the teams. To this effect, Karnik explained that with cricket being largely the dominant sport, brands are playing a wait and watch game to invest in other leagues. Advent of ISL, hockey and badminton leagues are surely encouraging as there is an audience for it. Largely brands are waiting and watching Pro Kabaddi's performance. It's currently looking generic to all new leagues, he added.
While brands have not queued up yet, they are wanting to see the benchmarks this season sets and propel their investments in the direction. So in-stadium interaction, social media and television ratings will form an important factor while they take their decisions. The entry point from investment is pretty low in a league like this (buying a team, franchisee investments or sponsorship or any association at this point) and it will definitely sustain for 3-4 years. Everything will depend on audience profile, overall way game has been received and the recall value it generates, believes Karnik.
Reinventing the glory of an old Indian sport can be seen as a very positive step in the cricket dominated landscape of the country. GroupM ESP Sportzpower report released earlier this year mentioned the rise of league formats in India and the growing interest of brands in other sports besides cricket. “This league is testimony to that. Kabaddi as a sport will gain recognition and memory. It would be a great benchmark if a home grown sport like kabaddi gains enough recognition to be seen in the international space as well,” remarked Karnik.
Live sports has seen a tremendous change in last year and 2015 will be a year to watch out as these leagues enter their second and third years. The newer generation is also following newer sports like football, hockey, table tennis, etc., which is why leagues like this could catapult to another level. Also the way we consume sports from just traditional television to internet, mobile, etc. have changed the numbers and reach largely, according to Karnik.
However Karnik is of the opinion that brands would benefit targeting at a B-town level through this where interest for this sport is higher.
Sports is entertaining content. Pro Kabaddi League has also been packaged with elements of entertainment that makes it wholesome for consumers. How much traction it generates however is a matter of time. With at least 2-3 seasons, the success could be measured by extrapolating historical data, according to Karnik. It’s too early to comment on viewership with only a week that has gone by.