UT Ramprasad talks about Kabaddi and its future...
Kabaddi is gaining traction and marketers are taking notice thanks to Pro Kabaddi League. It is truly a homegrown sport that needs backing and is not yet overexposed to brands giving marketers a chance to nurture meaningful associations and grow with the platform.
We interviewed UT Ramprasad, head-marcomm, Tata Motors to know his views on the growing popularity of Kabaddi, along with Rahul Kothari, Zenith Media, and Dipika Bhasin, PHD Media.
In your view, is Kabaddi truly an Indian sport?
Kabaddi has its origins in Indian myths – right from the days of Abhimanyu and the Chakravyuh, concepts that we now know as Kabaddi. It is perhaps the most Indian of sports.
What could be, in your opinion, the ways to keep this popularity of Kabaddi growing?
PKL has been a great step – it has brought in glamour and visibility to a sport that was very popular in middle India. As more viewers come in, more money comes in – followed by more interested players, more infrastructure, and endorsements. It is a sport that needs backing and supporters – we too have decided to step in because with the support we can provide, this sport can reach its deserved heights.
Looking at the growth trajectory of PKL what gives it an edge and makes it a marketer’s favourite?
It is a fast paced, action packed game that is quickly gaining fans and followers. The duration is short suiting attention span of today's viewer. So, for a marketer, there is a rapidly growing audience. Moreover, unlike cricket, the sport still isn’t overexposed – so, the marketer doesn’t have to fight with a horde of other brands just to get one tiny window to the audience. As a sport, also, it has the go-getting, never-say-die aggression which a lot of brands identify with.
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?
Like I said, it is an exciting team sport. Moreover, the properties – be it the stars or the teams – are still attracting traction. They are not fully formed yet. That means brands have an opportunity to get in at the ground floor level and nurture teams and properties which can later be identified with them. There is an opportunity here to build long-term associations and grow with the platform. It also provides deeper and more natural roots into the heartland of India – something few other sports and marketing opportunities can match.
A league like PKL offers brands an opportunity for some unique activations, how can brands take advantage of such opportunities by doing customized activations.
It depends to a large degree on what the brand aims to do – beyond just using it as a media vehicle. PKL offers tremendous such opportunities to brands – the question is, what will you do with it? In our case, there was a wonderful connect because we have a vehicle called Yodha. It was a natural move for us to sponsor UP Yoddhas, because both the UP Yoddha players as well as our vehicle stands for the aggression and the spirit of the warrior. It is a heartland game, rooted in our soil – and our products sell to the masses. So, this platform offers us an unprecedented way to connect with the sons of the soil. Kabaddi is a warrior’s game – and our pick up consumers are all warriors at heart. PKL is a perfect way for us to bond with the warriors of Indian heartland.
Marketers are pushing hard to catch the consumers' attention and keep brand recall high. With leagues like Pro Kabaddi League offering a good mix of on-air visibility along with on-ground activation opportunities, how best do you think marketers can leverage this property?
Home grown sports like Kabaddi are turning out to be a good option for marketers in India, a country truly dominated by cricket in terms of viewership and fan following. PKL has very high advantage of customisation and localisation as per brand requirement, since it is not governed by any international body, and it is incorporated purely from the purpose of marketing. Any association becomes lively the moment On-Air association is combined with On-ground platform, along with branding across multiple available options like Team branding, Sales linked contest, players endorsing your brand etc.
Sports is way of life and kabaddi is a homegrown sport, made for the Indian audience. Unlike international sports, where a choice has to be made by marketers to either cross-sell or upsell, kabaddi has a homegrown advantage, allowing it to leverage both without friction across different touch points.
The kabaddi gestation period will be higher in certain markets, but more effective and long-lasting for brands targeting small town Indian audiences with impact and high unaided recall. Leagues, teams, players and tournaments are at the inception of growth of audience and engagement, with openness to weave brand and content contextual communication through pro-active joint planning. Association can be done by markets, players and time of launch. Contact sports like kabaddi help brands seamlessly demonstrate brand attributes of power, strength, inspiration, humility and home-field advantage. International brands like Amazon, VIVO, Gionee, Pepsi - as well as homegrown brands like Patanjali and Bajaj Electricals – have all successfully leveraged association with the sport across all touchpoints, and owned them for a longer period of time in comparison to aspirational sports like cricket and football, and at an optimum cost too.