Sudipto Adhicary and Debashish Chakraborty
Brands and Sports marketing

VIVO PKL is the marketing platform brands look forward to... it's growing in popularity, with a 64% reach across the TG of 15-50 years, now stands at par with IPL season 12.

While the country cheer for the players in blue caps abroad, its homegrown sporting league VIVO Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is back in the spotlight again with its seventh season. What started as a local sport has now become a sporting extravaganza getting the masses hooked and proving to be an effective platform for brand partnerships. The season-on-season colossal growth of the game has not just showcased its popularity among the audience but also from a brand's perspective – a customized marketing solution which offers not only high impact visibility but also builds brand engagement.

VIVO PKL is the marketing platform brands look forward to...

Sporting events have always been a marketer's favourite but lately, the growing popularity of domestic sports like kabaddi has caught the notice of both – the audience and the brands. With celebrity-backed franchisees, power-packed entertainment, and local heroes, VIVO PKL by far has become one of the most popular and celebrated sporting leagues in the country. Its engaging, short and slick game format and its inherent mass appeal for being homegrown have resulted in 64% reach across the critical age group of 15-50 years – same as that of IPL season 12. For the marketers, it has successfully created a loyal base and brands such as VIVO, Dream11, Tata Motors, TVS Motors, & Bajaj Electricals are regulars. With innovative and first-of-its-kind solutions, targeting a sharp and focused group, and measurable ROIs, the league has been able to fuse traditional spot, entertainment, and a successful marketing wagon, thus securing a major share in the media plan.

VIVO PKL is the marketing platform brands look forward to...
Nipun Marya

On the brand's association with the league, Nipun Marya, Director - Brand Strategy, Vivo India, says, “Since its establishment in 2014, VIVO PKL has become the second most popular sports league in the country (after the IPL) in terms of viewership. While Kabaddi as a sport was lying unattended in small clubs across the country, the league has been instrumental in giving the sport a healthy competitive edge, nurturing hidden talent, and giving a dose of some nail-biting action.

Today, the league acts as a viable platform for brands to connect with various stakeholders effectively and create a long-lasting impact with high recall. The six successful seasons showcase a testimony that the masses have yet again embraced a truly indigenous sport. And, we believe that the league has a promising future, and will continue to be a preferred platform for brands to engage with its target audience. As it continues to grow, we are proud to be the title sponsor of the biggest kabaddi league in the world consecutively for the third year.”

During VIVO PKL Season 6, in a technological first, using the fan favourite virtual jumbotron, VIVO TVCs were seamlessly integrated during the broadcast without taking a commercial break. Cola brand Thumbs Up leveraged the platform and uniquely re-branded all the super raids as “Toofani Super Raids”, which allowed a strong brand recall throughout the season.

By leveraging commercials involving popular kabaddi players, fantasy sports platform, Dream 11 reached out urban and rural audience – its potential TG. Other than on-air and on-ground innovations, noodle brand, Top Ramen released Top Ramen Kabaddi Player Cards. The statistics on the card helped the brand connect its young audience, spread awareness, as well as multi-folded its recall. Even a brand like Association of Mutual Funds of India built its campaigns involving popular kabaddi players, helping fans connect to their favourite sporting heroes topically (with new money) in a new light and thus made them more receptive to the campaign. These series of partnership from various brand showcases the diverse reach along with the ability to deliver the desired results, making the league a preferred platform.

VIVO PKL is the marketing platform brands look forward to...

Supratik Sen, CEO and Co-Founder, U Sports, shares his thoughts on VIVO PKL driving conversations, increasing brand recall, and reaching the relevant critical group, “The affinity towards the sport has been climbing for the past 6 seasons at a positive rate. The league is no longer a factor of only the reach but also a factor of perception. Brands want to be associated with it as its not just the engagement but also the perception of being associated that drives conversions.

For U Mumba, brands like Indigo Paints created various engagement activities targeting the right audiences to generate enough conversations for them and more. They are back with us for a second season. We are pretty close to locking 2 more of our season 6 sponsors.

Digital viewership has grown along with time spent viewing year on year. The TV may have staggered a bit in the last season but with the digital viewership and teams social media growth rising exponentially, brands definitely see the potential. Brands are hungry to get in on the action. While branding is key, brands want to go beyond the jersey and logo spaces. Innovative brand integration and engagement are key decisive factors for brands to come on board.”

Sharing his views on the growth of the VIVO PKL and what's next for this unique marketing platform, Indranil Das Blah, Founding Partner - KWAN Entertainment and Marketing Solutions tells, “The VIVO PKL has established itself as the number two league in India, only second to the IPL. The reason for that is the strong on-field property, coupled with great marketing and positioning by Star. For any brand which is looking at a mass audience but doesn’t have the money to spend on cricket, this platform is a great alternative. As long as the on-field product is strong, the league won’t have to change too much of its DNA in the coming few seasons. As we have seen in its short history, tinkering with a successful format (like having two seasons in a calendar year) doesn’t really work.

What I would recommend for the league going forward though is to focus more on building Indian heroes, who are adopted by kabaddi fans. If there is one area where perhaps it is lacking, its in creating Indian icons. Right now, it has great on-court action, tremendous packaging and marketing, and packed stadia. The final piece of the jigsaw for the league to become a truly sustainable sports brand would be the creating of icons, whom kids would want to emulate and aspire to be.”

VIVO PKL has more on its side than just eye-catching brand solutions. It brings with it an enviable female and kids viewership which stands at 47% and 20% respectively for season 6. It is to be noted that this is on par with IPL season 12. The affluent consuming class of NCCS AB contributed 48% to the total reach as compared to IPL-12 which had 55%.

These stats are a testament to how the league has grown over the years and evolved with the requirements of marketers and consumers alike. Ticking the right boxes, the seventh season is also expected to do well both for the IP and the brands on board.