Pro Kabaddi set to become India’s biggest sports league


With the Pro Kabaddi League inviting expression of interest for four new franchises, its forthcoming fifth season will see the league become India’s biggest with up to 12 teams that will play more than 130 matches across 13 weeks of competition. With the likely addition of four teams — to represent Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana – the PKL will surpass other Indian sports leagues in terms of geographic representation, number of matches and duration of the league.

Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have been primarily chosen for their high affinity towards Kabaddi with massive fan bases, significant on-ground presence of the sport, and potential commercial value to sponsors and advertisers.

Both Haryana and Tamil Nadu contribute large number of players to Pro Kabaddi, as well as leading public sector teams in the country. Along with Uttar Pradesh, these states have a tradition of popular local Kabaddi tournaments. The intrinsic popularity of Kabaddi in India was most recently demonstrated in Gujarat where the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup led to bigger public following of the game.

Pro Kabaddi became an instant hit with Indian sports fans in its very first season in 2014 as 435 million* viewers tuned in. This modern league in India’s ancient sport of Kabaddi has continued to grow from strength to strength in subsequent seasons.  Its cumulative viewership growth of 51%** over 4 seasons is the highest for any sports league in India.  Within a short span of 2 years, Pro Kabaddi has captured the imagination of Indian viewers and established itself as a strong television property in key markets. It surpassed IPL in Andhra Pradesh and achieved primetime slot leadership in Mumbai#.

Pro Kabaddi and the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup have evoked strong sponsor interest.  Pro Kabaddi Season 4 had a total of 64 league and franchise sponsors on board. The interest has been fast growing and from diverse sectors of the economy, signifying a pan-India appeal – cutting across key consumer segments from metropolitan markets to heartland as well as pan-geographical regions.  In a remarkably strong endorsement of Kabaddi, the latest edition of an annual report jointly prepared by the leading media investment advisory firm ESP Properties and Sportzpower, a provider of sports business news, states, “…in terms of absolute numbers added to the Sports Sponsorship pie, India’s ancient contact team sport was THE story of 2016.”

Uday Shankar

“Even for an optimist like me, the response we have seen for Kabaddi is surprising,” a communique quotes Chairman and CEO of Star India, Uday Shankar. “Having seen its affinity in the country, it would be a disservice to the sport if we do not grow it further. All stakeholders have decided to come together to expand the league, and given the pace at which this is growing, it might be just the first in a series of expansions in the coming years.”

Indian Kabaddi’s father figure, Janardan Singh Gehlot, President, International Kabaddi Federation, said, “Pro Kabaddi is a truly unique example of how a modern league has transformed the much loved but traditional Kabaddi into a modern sport. Star Sports as well as Mashal have created a magnificent example for the growth of India as multi-sport nation.”

An All India Kabaddi player hunt 2017 was organized by Mashal Sports in association with AKFI as part of its talent development programme across 14 cities in India. Over 4600 participants between the age groups of 18 to 22 years got a chance to showcase their Kabaddi talent. This initiative will play an important role in catalyzing the on-ground Kabaddi eco-system and providing a future pipeline of players.

Mashal Sports is inviting Expression of Interest from reputable corporate entities having a vision for investing in the overall development of the sport from the ground up and participating in the success of PKL through their active involvement as a franchise team. Mashal Sports will shortlist selected interested participants and invite them to participate in a transparent tender process. The selection of the winning bidders will be done by a panel of eminent people based on both qualitative and financial criteria.

The ad inviting Expression of Interest for new teams in the Pro Kabaddi League

The process is expected to be completed by 5th May, 2017 providing enough time for the new franchise to prepare for Season 5 starting in July 2017.

* Source: CS4+; Extrapolated from TAM panel
**All India viewership. Season 1 measured on TAM panel in Urban only, Season 4 on BARC panel at All India (Urban + Rural) level
#Season 4 viewership on 4+U+R, BARC panel within AP (including Telangana). Slot leadership for 30% of PKL league matches in Mumbai.

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