Star Sports' Pro Kabaddi League, launched on July 26, received a great start with over 22 million television viewers tuning in on opening night. According to Star, this data, when extrapolated to All India Universe, as per standard industry conversions, indicate that over 66 million Indians watched the opening night games.
The first match on July 26 at 7.45 pm was played between U Mumbai (Mumbai) and Pink Panther (Jaipur). Ronnie Screwwala and Abhishek Bachchan own the teams. The second match on the same day was played between Do It Sports Management's Dabang Delhi and Kosmik Global Media's Bengaluru Bulls.
This "first-of-its-kind" League, has become one of the most talked-about events on social media. Within 12 hours of its start, Star Sports Pro-Kabaddi and related conversations had received approximately 140 million impressions on Twitter and equally significant numbers in the form of Facebook activity.
The conversation was sparked off by celebrities present in-stadia - Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Sachin Tendulkar and others tweeted about their experience and the activation of the Twitter mirror "signature selfies" at the game.
Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India is pleased. "At Star, we believe in building content on a long term basis. Our positions and moods don't swing based on Day One ratings. We strongly believe in the potential of kabaddi and that is the reason we are working so hard to build it."
Gayatri Yadav - chief marketing and communication head, Star India, reaffirms that the network's mission with Star Sports is to take cricket deeper and to build a multi-sports culture. "Kabaddi is a game with a deep connect with pockets of passion in the local population and the league will help bring into spotlight a sport that has been restricted to the hinterland," she says.
The network had rolled out an interesting marketing campaign around the property in order to encourage people to view it. It had launched two sets of ad films - one that gave the feel of the sport and second that played on the insight 'Jeet Te Hai Wohi, Jo Haar Nahi Maante!'
Kabaddi is a sport that is high on intensity, energy, fitness and skill. "This has guided everything from the marketing strategy and campaign - with slick films that shift the perception of the game to a global one. There has been an enormous effort to reposition, repackage and revamp the game for the new generation," adds Yadav.
The channel said that there are over a million self-professed kabaddi fans on Facebook in India. There are 3,900 clubs registered and a city like Mumbai has around 700 clubs. Kabaddi is feverishly followed in pockets across the country and is traditionally strong in Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.