Marketing Lessons from Pro Kabaddi League

Indian sports is going through some exciting times. In a country obsessed with cricket, it is heartening to see other sports getting its due recognition. Over the last few months, two sports have witnessed unprecedented attention in recent times – Football and Kabaddi.

Kabaddi has undergone an unprecedented image makeover thanks to Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). The marketing department of PKL had a mammoth task in hand which they delivered excellently.


Getting the 4 Ps right

More often than not, the success of a product lies in getting those basics right – Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Pro Kabaddi league got all four of them right. And here is how:

  1. Product – Prior to PKL, Kabaddi was considered a sport for the rural masses played by pehelwans in dusty arenas. It had little or no significance in the 21st century urban India. PKL launched Kabaddi in a totally new avatar. Instead of mud, it had synthetic floor. The rules of the game were modified to improve the viewer experience. The attribute which made PKL a great product was the way it was broadcasted. Multiple cameras, slow motion replays, commentary – both in Hindi and English, newly defined game statistics (Eg – number of successful raids) etc. totally redefined the viewership experience. All these factors came together to give the viewers an experience which was truly “new and improved”.1
  2. Place – Given that people had preconceived notions about kabaddi, it was important for PKL to expose people to the new avatar of kabaddi. It was necessary to induce a large scale “trial” of PKL as a product which offered entertainment. Thus, it was launched across multiple channels of STAR India. Apart from STAR Sports, it was also broadcasted on channels such as STAR Gold and STAR Utsav which are family entertainment channels. This way, PKL was able to target the consumers who do not consume sports as entertainment in their day to day lives.
  3. Price – As there are no direct costs associated with consumption of entertainment products on television, it is important to look at various perceived costs. Kabaddi has an inherent advantage over cricket here. Unlike a cricket match, a kabaddi match is of much shorter duration. This reduces the amount of time that a viewer needs to spend on a single match which in turn reduces the cost associated (in terms of time) with watching a kabaddi match.
  4. Promotion – Celebrity endorsement works in Indian market. Period. Pooling in celebrities such as Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwaya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan created curiosity in the minds of the Indian consumers which encouraged ‘trial’. ‘Repurchase’ was taken care of by the product quality.2                                                                 Source:



The Bandwagon effect

Consumption of sports as entertainment has a bandwagon effect associated with it. The more the number of people viewing a sport, the higher is the likelihood of discussions on that sporting event happening within the community that the consumer lives in. This enhances the experience of a consumer even further. Thus, it is important that sports broadcaster get a critical mass of viewers who will increase the reach of the sport as they will have an incentive to do so. With the involvement of celebrities and the capturing of prime airtime on multiple Star Channels, Pro Kabaddi League was able to capture the attention of the critical mass. After it reached the influencers in the community, Word-of-mouth played a crucial role in helping it increase its reach substantially.



Time Time Time  

If location is what makes or breaks a real estate business, it is “Time” which rules the roost in broadcasting. PKL made some smart moves with regard to time. They launched the league during an away series of Indian cricket team. This ensured that they were not competing with cricket for eyeballs. Just like IPL, PKL also got over in a short span on time. PKL took place over 37 days which ensured that the excitement around the league remained high throughout the duration of the event and the viewer’s didn’t feel fatigued as is often the case with traditional sporting leagues in India such as I-League (football).3


Like always, the football world cup brought the Indians together in their four yearly lamentation about the dire state of football in India. This year, however, the Indian footballing fraternity has something to cheer about with the launch of Indian Super League (ISL) and the IPLesque glamour attached with it.

It will   be interesting to see whether the marketing folks at ISL get it right.


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