The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) gears up for an electrifying return to its home-and-away format, marking the first season back since the pandemic. Excitement looms not only among fans but also within diverse brand categories, eyeing tier-two and tier-three cities for a slice of the action.
This season, more prominent brands seeking alternatives beyond cricket are diverting ad budgets towards PKL. The league is experiencing a significant upsurge in player bids, brand interest, and sponsorship revenues.
For instance, Mumbai’s team, U Mumba, boasts a staggering 60% increase in brand sponsorship deals. According to Suhail Chandhok, CEO of U Mumba, both new and returning sponsors like Amul Macho are reinforcing their partnerships, signaling a positive sentiment for PKL Season 10.
The return to the home-and-away format presents a prime opportunity for brands to capitalize on the heightened enthusiasm among audiences, leveraging the league’s widespread popularity.
"We are seeing a positive response to PKL Season 10. Even as we expected a little bit of a challenge, given that the season was sandwiched by the World Cup on one side and then the IPL (Indian Premier League) on the other, people have waited for PKL to return to the home-and-away format, and the pulse of the nation is very positive towards Pro Kabaddi at the moment,” Chandhok commented.
Beyond the seasoned sponsors, U Mumba welcomes new partners like Melbet Live, V John, Abros Shoes, and Rajdhani in the food category for this season.
The league’s appeal has attracted diverse sectors, with new categories making their debut this year. Despite 2023 being cricket-centric, teams foresee robust growth in brand associations as the season kicks off on December 2.
Srinivas Sreeramaneni, owner of the Telugu Titans, anticipates a return to pre-Covid sponsorship numbers. He emphasizes the influx of new categories, especially those targeting audiences in tier-two and tier-three cities, reflecting improved infrastructure and distribution post-Covid.
Expanding into untapped markets and aligning with varied categories broadens the league’s appeal, attracting brands eyeing regional penetration and diverse consumer demographics.
Moreover, there's a notable shift from conventional sectors like cement and fertilizers to larger, more recognizable brands. Companies initially investing between Rs 1 crore and Rs 1.2 crore are now upping their spending to as much as Rs 2.5 crore, indicating heightened confidence in PKL’s reach and impact.
Reports suggest that global corporations eyeing an Indian expansion are in talks with teams for sponsorship opportunities. The league stands as one of India’s most-watched, trailing only behind the IPL.
Teams, recognizing the escalating stakes, are strategizing to amplify their presence. The Puneri Paltan team expects a 20% surge in sponsorship revenue this season. They aim to bolster social media engagement by leveraging influencer marketing alongside player endorsements.
Kailash Kandpal, CEO of Puneri Paltan, highlights their engagement with new categories, including a fashion designer seeking player endorsements. This showcases the team’s popularity and the league’s allure. Venturing into influencer marketing further underscores their commitment to sustaining a year-round presence.
Puneri Paltan’s roster of sponsors includes Force Motors, Schaeffler, Radio City, DY Patil Hospital, Charcoal Eats, and MuscleTech, signifying diverse industry affiliations aiming for extensive reach and recognition.
Sponsors predominantly seek reach, recognition, and relatability through their associations with the league and its teams. For Andreas STIHL, co-partner of Puneri Paltan, PKL became an avenue to extend their presence into rural India, observing increased sports engagement in these regions.
Shobhit Bahel, head of marketing at Andreas STIHL, underscores the relatability of Kabaddi to their rural audience and the league’s innovative gameplay, leading to a lasting partnership since 2019.
Aligning with the audience's interests and leveraging the game's resonance in specific demographics bolsters brand relatability and long-term associations, especially in untapped markets.
As the Pro Kabaddi League prepares for its much-anticipated return, brands harness its wide appeal, aiming to establish enduring connections with diverse consumer segments.
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