The success of kabaddi as a televised sport surprised everyone, including the promoters and broadcasters last year, as the Pro Kabaddi League went on to become one of the most viewed tournaments after cricket events. The tournament got a cumulative reach of 435 million viewers, second only to the cricketing tournaments like the Indian Premier League 2014 (560 million).
Experts believe one could see up to 200 per cent growth in the sponsorship rates for the teams and the broadcaster. The league has a total of eight teams from eight cities and is broadcast on the STAR India network.
"The success of the league last year stumped everyone. It was a sport considered not suitable for television and was perceived to appeal only the rural markets. However, the viewership and ticket sales last year proved that was not the case," says a media planner associated with the event.
Indranil Das Blah, COO, CAA KWAN, a sports marketing and celebrity management agency, says, "What advertisers and sponsors look for is an aspirational quotient in any property. The moment the league showed traction in the metros and mini-metros, it became an appealing vehicle for sponsorships and advertising."
Last year, many teams had brand associations in the latter half of the tournament, but the ticket size of these deals was not high. Estimates peg these deals at Rs 5-15 lakh on an average (depending on the kind of sponsorship and duration).
Thanks to the first season's success, this ticket size is expected to go up to Rs 1-1.5 crore for the top teams. For example, season 1's winners, Jaipur Pink Panthers, are looking at signing multi-year deals (between 2 and 3 years), at a significant increase from last year's ticket price. In fact, Abhishek Bachchan, the owner of Jaipur Pink Panthers hopes to break even and recover thue losses from last year from sponsorships in the second season, which kicks off this July.
Speaking to Business Standard on the sidelines of FICCI Frames 2015, Bachchan informed that the good run in the first season has made an impact and sponsorship offers have started flowing in. "For us, last year was really good. Not only did the tournament do well in terms of viewership, but we also won the first season. As a result, we are now receiving enquiries for sponsorships, rather than us approaching brands. We are hopeful that this year we will not only recover costs for the current season, but also be able to recover last year's losses and make a profit!"
He said not only has the bulk of enquiries increased, the ticket size of sponsorships has also gone up. "Depending on the kind of association, negotiations on are for anything from Rs 50 lakh for a season to Rs 6-7 crore (for multi-year deals). The latter, of course, is for the prime sponsorship brackets," says Bachchan, who also own a stake in the Chennaiyan FC franchise in the Indian Super League.
The average expense incurred by teams last year was in the range of Rs 5-6 crore, including the franchise fee (Rs 1 crore to Rs 1.5 crore), player costs (up to Rs 60 lakh), promotion and marketing cost and ancillary costs of team maintenance and employees. On an average, the teams last year made losses of Rs 3 crore. Blah, however, has a word of caution. "The league was a success last year, but one must remember that the expectations were low. Now, the expectations have built up and the challenge this year is going to be to sustain the momentum, and add value in some way to further build commercial interest in the league," he says. The Pro-Kabaddi League was launched in July 2014 by Mashal sports (Charu Sharma and Anand Mahindra) and has eight teams from eight cities competing to win the title. The tournament was telecast on STAR India and was available in English and Hindi (on STAR Gold).