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Why Kabaddi players are new Hot favourites for Brand Promotions?

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“I was walking in a mall a few days after the end the season of the Pro Kabaddi and was surprised when someone recognized me and asked me for an autograph,” said one of the then-to-be Pro Kabaddi League stars smiling.

Those days now seem quite far away as today Kabaddi players in the league have found to be a good picking for advertisers.

While brands are flocking to the new-found success of the league, it seems that the players too are now getting in on the action. Recently many of these Kabaddi players could be spotted in mutual fund ads giving advice on how to choose mutual funds or the benefits of them.An example of this is the recent ad campaign by the Association of Mutual Funds of India (AMFI) which has featured several players from the Kabaddi teams to promote the financial instrument.

While AMFI for long has been running campaigns to increase awareness about mutual funds and to reach out to investors, the use of Kabaddi players in its latest campaign is something new. This shows the growing influence of the sport and these players appeal in not only towns but also the metros in the country.

PKL It Is?

The advertising revenue on the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is now set to double to Rs 150 crore in its fifth season from Rs 70 crore in the previous season, according to a Live Mint report.

In May this year itself, Chinese smartphone maker Vivo picked up title sponsorship rights to PKL for Rs 50-60 per year for a period of 5 years. It also has 4 associate sponsors putting in Rs 8-10 crore each and three partners putting in Rs 5-7 crore in each. PKL today has outperformed other sporting leagues in terms of viewership and revenue to now establish itself has the No.2 league behind the Indian Premier League in India.

The reach of PKL in season 4 had stood at 217.46 million, which is only lower than the reach of IPL, which has been there for a long time, has a reach of 361.24 million, according to GroupM data.

With Kabaddi players now featuring in ads other than that of the Star Sports promos, will more brands look at featuring them in their ad campaigns?

Future Stars

While there seems to be a lot of brand interest in kabaddi league stars, most of them are looking at them in terms of their future potential once they attain fame.

Ram Gudipati, Founder and CEO of Brand Harvest says that brands will definitely be looking at these kabaddi players as they have now become familiar faces, if not famous. “It is more about investing early for brands as these kabaddi players are going to become popular. So naturally, when they become stars or become familiar faces, brands would want to be associated with them. That is if they fit with their brand image and would want to portray strength or power, etc.”These kabaddi players are also being looked as potential picks for brand ambassadors after cricket and Bollywood stars. As Harish Bijoor, brand expert and CEO of Harish Bijoor Consultants says that once cricket and Bollywood stars options dry out due to the very high prices or non-availability, then advertisers are looking at other sports stars such as Kabaddi player.

Coming from small towns and humble beginnings these kabaddi players are also looked as having the potential to appeal to the rural audience in India. The sport also being played in rural areas in parts of India has also unlocked a huge potential for brands to reach out the people there through these kabaddi players.

N Chandramouli, CEO of TRA Research, a brand data insights firm, says that when it comes to AMFI it is looking to promote the use of mutual funds products even in tier II cities, a reason why they have used the kabaddi players in their ad campaign.

“Why did AMFI get into the kabaddi league? AMFI has a different problem, its problem is that the offtake of mutual funds is so low in the country and the investments in place such as Tier II cities is so low that they have to necessarily reach out to them. And they reach out to them through a medium that populous understands closely. Kabaddi is a no-nonsense sport, it does not have multi-million dollar tags to it. And many of the people have played kabaddi when they were little. AMFI is going for people who can maybe even put Rs 500 a month into mutual fund investments,” he says.

Getting ’em Cheap

Besides their future potential, the reason why brands are also keenly looking at kabaddi players is the very low cost that they come at and the potential to tap into them at this price is very attractive for brands.

“The brands that do take them essentially because they come at a very low cost. In fact, the stars do little to the brand, as the brand does to the stars. The feeling is that kabaddi is going to be the future No.2 to cricket in India and therefore then the idea is to invest in some kabaddi stars. The eyeballs for kabaddi is very wide and vast and can be bigger as it is a common man’s sport. Brands which are completely grassroot oriented would want to look at kabaddi. It could be an edible oil, hair oil, soap brand, etc, which are at the bottom of the pyramid product would want to look at these players,” says Bijoor

He further adds says, “There are agents currently trying to sell these kabaddi stars to the brands. So you can broad base you appeal by having maybe 5 of these players. It is quite likely that you can buy 20 kabaddi players for about one-third of what brands pay for a cricketer.”Gudipati says that investing early in such sports stars allows brands to sign them on at a much cheaper rate and for a longer time. For instance, he said a long time ago when MS Dhoni was starting his career they were able to sign him for as low as a few lakhs for a Reliance brand.

Sridhar Ramanujam, Founder and CEO of Integrated Brand-Comm further expect more brands to choose kabaddi players in the future as cricketers are far too expensive.

“By and large it is easiest for marketers to look at cricketers as they have a wide appeal, but only a few cricketers have a good appeal for advertisers. They may be good players on the pitch, but many of them don’t have the appeal to reach out to audiences that brands are looking for. Instead of taking a cricketer who costs a lot, it makes good sense for brands to choose kabaddi players as they are good in terms of costs versus benefit,” he says.

Social Media Influence?

While the league may have good viewership and brand attraction, advertisers also look at the fan following on social media of these sports stars. However, when it comes to kabaddi players they are far from having a huge following in comparison to cricketers or even badminton stars such as P V Sindhu.

For instance, even a young cricketer who has recently made it into the squad such Umesh Yadav has 1.49 million followers on Twitter. All other cricketers have much more followers. Rohit Sharma, for instance, has 9.13 million followers. P V Sindhu has 1.7 million followers on Twitter.

In comparison, one of the most popular Pro Kabaddi players and has featured in the AMFI ad campaign, Anup Kumar, who is the captain of U Mumba, has just 48,700 followers on Twitter. Other kabaddi stars being much lower in terms of their followers.

However, this is not a deal breaker these experts say as it is looked at as an added advantage if a sports star has a good fan following online, apart from their performance on the pitch.

“Yes, social media profiles are looked at. It is not a very important role currently but if you have a very strong social media following then naturally they know that person’s popularity is very high, apart from them being very good sportsmen. Not everyone who plays well will necessarily get followed and therefore if they see that it adds that fillip to the deal. However, it is not a deal breaker for sure,” says Chandramouli.