I ex­pect PKL to be one of the most an­tic­i­pated events in the sports cal­en­dar.

The Brand Reporter - - BRANDS AND SPORTS MARKETING -

In a cricket-crazy na­tion, a home­grown sport has caught the at­ten­tion of the masses, es­pe­cially in the metropoli­tan cities and among the mil­len­ni­als. Kabaddi, thanks to the push from Pro Kabaddi League, has man­aged to carve a cat­e­gory for it­self and mar­keters have started to no­tice its po­ten­tial. Be it the tier 2 and tier 3 au­di­ence or in­creas­ing view­er­ship from met­ros, kabaddi has proven that it is ready to be played in hi-tech sta­di­ums with fans root­ing for their team.

We in­ter­viewed Kedar Apte, vice pres­i­dent mar­ket­ing, Cas­trol, to know his views on the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of kabaddi. Edited Ex­cerpts:

Kabaddi has been seen as a home­grown sport. Now with its ur­ban­iza­tion, it is be­com­ing pop­u­lar in met­ros and among mil­len­ni­als. What are your views on it?

Kabaddi is a clas­sic case of what we call ‘Cat­e­gory Build­ing’ in mar­ket­ing. Star has done a great job of build­ing some non-cricket sports in In­dia to grow its view­er­ship. The youth to­day lives a fast-paced life and want to max­i­mize ev­ery mo­ment. Based on this in­sight, the game of kabaddi has been re­designed where ev­ery minute is an event. In­no­va­tions - such as bonus line, must do raids - make the game fast-paced where a viewer can’t even blink for a mo­ment. El­e­ments such as player ac­tion, sub­sti­tu­tions have been brought in to en­gage youth fur­ther. The broad­caster has done a great job of ed­u­cat­ing the au­di­ence as well as sportswrit­ers about the game and of course, the celebrity quotient has also helped drive eye­balls ini­tially. They also tar­geted young chil­dren by host­ing ju­nior kabaddi and kids are get­ting par­ents to the sta­dium or to their TV sets to watch the game. The game also has got some he­roes now such as Ajay Thakur, Rahul Chaud­hari, Fazel, and Jang Ku Lee who are very pop­u­lar and get their fans to watch ev­ery match of their teams.

With the ad­di­tion of four new teams in sea­son 5, PKL be­came In­dia’s big­gest sport­ing league in terms of ge­o­graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion with 12 fran­chises from 11 states on board. How would you pre­dict its growth tra­jec­tory?

Kabaddi is the sec­ond most watched sport in the coun­try now, and I think it will con­tinue to grow. Hav­ing more rep­re­sen­ta­tion from dif­fer­ent states is a great idea. Sim­i­lar to IPL, the au­di­ence likes to sup­port a par­tic­u­lar team and hav­ing more teams will only help drive en­gage­ment in more states. I think over the few years, the game will grow in terms of pen­e­tra­tion (reach) as well as con­sump­tion (stick­i­ness). I ex­pect more growth in the ur­ban mar­kets es­pe­cially through young age group as well as fe­male teenagers.

I also ex­pect Star to at­tempt to grow the sport in se­lect over­seas mar­kets. With more than 50 over­seas play­ers, mar­kets such as Korea and Poland can also help the chan­nel get more rev­enue and in­vest in the prop­erty.

PKL is at­tract­ing big­ger brands on board now. Is it on its way to be­com­ing the IPL for brands? And would it be pos­si­ble to repli­cate the same suc­cess as its crick­et­ing sib­ling?

I think In­dia cer­tainly has the po­ten­tial to be a multi-sports coun­try, given the pop­u­lar­ity of sports such as kabaddi, foot­ball, and bad­minton. With bil­lions of im­pres­sions, PKL has cer­tainly achieved a great stature al­ready and I would ex­pect Star to in­vest heav­ily in the sport to grow PKL mul­ti­fold. While I don’t see PKL over­tak­ing IPL in the fore­see­able fu­ture, I ex­pect it to be one of the most an­tic­i­pated events in the sports cal­en­dars of the coun­try. Given the mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for mon­e­ti­za­tion, the in­vest­ment will keep on com­ing to fuel fur­ther growth. I think PKL is al­ready a big suc­cess story which will only get big­ger.

I see only one lim­i­ta­tion to growth now. While the sport has done well on TV, there is op­por­tu­nity to build this bet­ter on so­cial plat­forms. For in­stance, FB com­mu­nity for Rahul Chaud­hary, one of the stars in PKL is about 240k, less than crick­eters warm­ing the bench. With so­cial pro­files of the PKL play­ers grow­ing, the brands can lev­er­age their as­so­ci­a­tion across plat­forms and get more bang for their buck.

For a sports-lov­ing na­tion like ours, such prop­er­ties mean un­prece­dented brand vis­i­bil­ity and re­call. What other fac­tors do you think are at­tract­ing brands to­wards PKL?

First of all, kabaddi in PKL is fast paced that keeps the au­di­ence glued to their TV screens. While cricket is a spe­cial sport, I think that ‘con­tact sports’ have their own ap­peal. There is also an as­pect of kabaddi be­ing an in­dige­nous sport that helps at­tract more brands which want to project them­selves as In­dian brands.

A league like PKL of­fers brands an op­por­tu­nity for some unique ac­ti­va­tions. How can brands take ad­van­tage of such op­por­tu­ni­ties by do­ing cus­tomised ac­ti­va­tions?

Kabaddi is be­com­ing a youth sport in­clud­ing fe­male view­er­ship and is a great plat­form for brands that tar­get youth of both gen­ders. There are dif­fer­ent facets to the sport - at­tack, de­fense, strat­egy, skill, team­work and so on, that brands can draw a con­nec­tion too.

For in­stance, we at Cas­trol were try­ing to build ‘Cling on’ propo­si­tion of Cas­trol Ac­tiv, and could lev­er­age on suc­cess­ful tack­les as a brand prop­erty to am­plify the brand mes­sage. We branded the most suc­cess­ful tackle of the match as ‘Cas­trol Ac­tiv’ Cling on Tackle and am­pli­fied the same across plat­forms. We also used the plat­form to cel­e­brate real he­roes of bike - me­chan­ics who cling on to their pas­sion to serve the mil­lions of bik­ers across the coun­try.

Brands, given their ob­jec­tive, can use PKL as a spring­board and evolve unique ideas that would catch the at­ten­tion of view­ers and com­mu­ni­cate the brand mes­sage.

Cas­trol has as­so­ci­ated with PKL in the past, what were the brand ob­jec­tives when you de­cided to do that?

We wanted to build dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion for Cas­trol Ac­tiv - our lead­ing brand for two-wheel­ers. Cas­trol Ac­tiv has Acti­bonds that cling to the en­gine parts. No plat­form brings Cling On to life as di­rectly as clearly as kabaddi.

How did Cas­trol lev­er­age the as­so­ci­a­tion with PKL?

We wanted to es­tab­lish the propo­si­tion of Acti­bonds cling­ing on con­tin­u­ously and to do this we had a great cre­ative idea. We used a suc­cess­ful tackle - where de­fend­ers at­tempt to cling on to a raider as a cre­ative idea. We branded a seg­ment called Cas­trol Ac­tiv Cling on Tackle of the day to fea­ture the best tackle of the day. We lever­aged this not only in TV tele­cast but also used this as­set dig­i­tally on our So­cial me­dia plat­forms. Fur­ther, we used Acti­bond mas­cots to be a part of the au­di­ence in some of the matches and got them cov­ered dur­ing the tele­cast along with the brand propo­si­tion.

Kedar Apte Vice Pres­i­dent - Mar­ket­ing, Cas­trol In­dia Ltd

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