New Delhi: In a year when the advertising business grew only 11.89%, sports sponsorship grew 19.33% in 2016 to touch Rs6,400 crore, highlighting the willingness of advertisers to spend big money on sporting events—in terms of sponsorships, endorsements by cricketers, and advertising during sports events and in their coverage across print, TV and digital media.

The findings are part of a report jointly published by GroupM ESP, the sports and entertainment arm of GroupM, a media buying agency that is part of WPP Inc., and SportzPower, a sports business news company. The report was released in Mumbai on Thursday.

Interestingly, while cricket still accounts for much of this, other sports are beginning to make their presence felt. The report did not give a break-up by sport, but based on the numbers provided, on-ground sponsorship of kabbadi matches (including the Pro Kabbadi League), brought in Rs122 crore in 2016, up from Rs48 crore the previous year. The Pro Kabbadi League also earned Rs62 crore in team sponsorship.

With revenues associated with football (and the Indian Soccer league) staying almost flat, kabbadi will soon be (if it already isn’t), India’s second must lucrative sport in terms of sponsorships. And across sports leagues, non-cricket ones saw their franchise revenue growing 4.97% from Rs201.2 crore to Rs211.2 crore.

“The biggest change we’ve seen is that emerging sports like kabaddi and hockey are generating revenues across the board, from on-ground sponsorships to endorsements. All non-cricket leagues today have four or five central sponsors and each team is able to generate three to four sponsors," said Vinit Karnik, business head, ESP Properties.

Indeed, the Indian Badminton League earned Rs8 crore from just team sponsorship. And team sponsorship of football teams (including those in the Indian Soccer league) stayed almost flat but still brought in just less than Rs100 crore.

Overall, ad expenditure on sports events grew 24.63% in 2016 to Rs3,510.8 crore according to the report titled Sporting Nation in the Making IV. Cricket accounted for much of this, with the popular Indian Premier League itself attracting Rs1,020.0 crore of advertising.

In 2016, on-ground sponsorship for sports events grew from Rs1,030.5 crore to Rs1,165.2 crore; team sponsorships across leagues and tournaments rose from Rs558.2 crore to Rs699.6 crore; franchise fees went from Rs541.3 crore to Rs548.0 crore and endorsements from Rs416.4 crore to Rs476.4 crore.

Kabaddi was easily the breakout story of 2016. The decision by Star India, Pro Kabaddi League’s principal owner, to have two seasons in 2016 made it a money spinner. On the back of the two-season kabaddi league and India’s hosting of the Kabaddi World Cup in Ahmedabad, on-ground sponsorship for the sport grew 154%.

The other big trend was the rise in endorsement deals. While cricket did the heavy lifting and saw commitments from 72 brands, non-cricket athletes secured 82 brand endorsements last year.

Rio Olympic medal winners P.V. Sindhu and Sakshi Malik contributed to the non-cricket endorsements deals growing 83.5% in 2016, from Rs42 crore to Rs77.1 crore. But Virat Kohli, captain of the Indian cricket team had the biggest part to play in the rise in cricket endorsement deals from Rs264.4 crore to Rs279.3 crore in 2016. Kohli ended 2016 with 20 brands under his belt and endorsement deals of Rs120.0 crore.