The 4Ps that Turned Pro Kabaddi League into the Perfect Success

Entertainment | June 30, 2016 | Feature

Star Sports

In a country obsessed with Cricket, carving out a niche for any other sport is quite the challenge. However, two sports —  Football and Kabaddi — have managed to steal a chunk of the mass attention. Football with its international leagues and global star-power already had a fan base in the country. However, as de-glamorised and raw as it is, Kabaddi had to start from scratch. The credit goes to the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) for the home-grown sports’ quick and magnificent make-over. 

Here’s how PKL’s marketing department took on the tricky challenge and cracked it in style — Hitesh Gossain, CEO of elaborates:

The Key? 
The 4Ps of effective marketing — Product, Place, Price, and Promotion — were absolutely spot on.


Before PKL, Kabaddi was perceived as a rural sport played by pehelwans in dirt bowls. It had little or no relevance in the 21st century urban India. PKL launched Kabaddi in a brand new avatar. Instead of mud, the stage was set on a synthetic floor. 

Hitesh Gossain explains further, "The rules of the game were modified to improve the viewer experience. The characteristics which made PKL a great product was the way it was telecasted. Multiple cameras, slow motion replays, commentary – both in Hindi and English, newly defined game statistics totally changed the viewership experience. All these factors came together to give the viewers an experience which was truly “new and improved".”


Given that there were biased notions about kabaddi, it was important for PKL to introduce the masses to the new form of the sport. It was necessary to induce a giant scale “trial” of PKL as a product that offered entertainment.  It was therefore broadcasted across multiple channels of STAR India, including family entertainment channels like STAR Gold and STAR Utsav. And thus, PKL was able to target the consumers who do not consume sports as entertainment in their day to day lives. 


Though there are no direct costs associated with consumption of entertainment products on television, it is important to look at various perceived costs. Kabaddi’s big advantage over cricket is its 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.


Celebrity endorsement is a sureshot marketing tactic for the Indian market. Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, and Abhishek Bachchan were roped in to created curiosity, thus encouraging ‘trial’. ‘Repurchase’ was taken care of by the product quality.

Highlighting the bandwagon effect that accompanies events/IPs like the PKL, Hitesh says, "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. 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."

Just as the location makes or breaks a real estate business, “Time” is the king when it comes to events and broadcasting, and PKL made some slick moves in this regard. The league was launched during an away series of Indian cricket team. Like IPL, PKL also got over in a short span of time — 37 days, ensuring that the excitement remained high throughout the duration of the event.

Star Sports Pro Kabaddi is a premier initiative of Mashal Sports — a sports management company co-promoted by Anand Mahindra, Charu Sharma and Lex & Legal Services’ Rajiv Luthra. The league is formally backed by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF), the Asian Kabaddi Federation (AKF), and the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI), who are closely associated with its organization and technical conduct.

The 2016 edition was the third season of Pro Kabaddi League. The league saw a huge success in its second season, made a return for the third season just five months after completion of the second. Hyderabad hosted the opening leg of Season 3, with the first match being played between Telugu Titans and U Mumba at the Titan’s home turf, Gachibowli Indoor Stadium. Patna Pirates were the champions this year.

With Product, Place, Price and Promotion being spot on, Kabaddi has been given a perfect makeover to catch mass attention. Here’s how the tricky challenge was cracked…

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