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The fourth season of the Pro Kabaddi League is off to a good start, having signed up 11 advertisers as sponsors for the five-week, eight-city tournament that started on 25 June.

Official broadcaster Star India is expected to generate revenues of around 70 crore from this season alone, 50% more than what it earned last year, according to industry estimates.

The Pro Kabaddi League has emerged as an attractive platform for advertisers, experts said. Advertisers such as Bharti Airtel Ltd, State Bank of India, Gionee Mobile, Bajaj Electricals, Vini Cosmetics, Fair and Lovely Men, Nestlé Munch, Castrol, Britannia, Bisleri and Indo Nissin are among sponsors this season.

According to industry estimates, each sponsor would have paid 4-6 crore, depending on the deal with the broadcaster. Unlike other properties, which feature purely on-air advertising and sponsorships, this season, these deals also offer on-ground and digital visibility.

For the Pro Kabaddi League, viewership as well as revenue from sponsorships have grown. About 430 million people watched the first season in 2014, the second-most viewed sporting event that year after the Indian Premier League with 552 million viewers. According to a Star Sports spokesperson, viewership for Pro Kabaddi grew 20% from season 1 to season 2, and 35% from season 2 to season 3. A report by ESP Properties and SportzPower earlier this year said Star Sports earned approximately 45 crore in on-air sponsorship revenue from Pro Kabaddi League in 2015.

The broadcaster’s faith in the sustainability and viability of the tournament is demonstrated by its decision to hold two seasons in one year. Besides, many advertisers have seen merit in continuing their association with the property in season 4.

“Not only has the Pro Kabaddi League managed to retain a large number of its sponsors, it has also managed to pull in more sponsors this season. And these are not just any sponsors, it’s managed to pull in the big boys (of advertising)—Castrol, Airtel and Nestlé," said Vinit Karnik, business head of ESP Properties, the entertainment and sports practice from GroupM, adding that “this should put all speculation about its sustainability, to rest".

“This is a good property for brands looking to reach mass television audiences. And has been offering brands a good return on investment, at a fairly reasonable cost," said Prasanth Kumar, chief executive officer of Mindshare South Asia. “The question now is how do we scale (up) that return on investment? Whether it is through branded content or interesting on-ground engagement with fans. We need to understand how this connection is happening. Are audiences following players? Are they supporting teams?"

Season 3, which ended in March, had nine on-air sponsors: TVS Motors, Bajaj Electricals, Flipkart, State Bank of India, Gionee mobiles, Idea Cellular, Fair and Lovely men’s facewash, Indo Nissin and PepsiCo India.

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