Mumbai: Sponsorship revenue for Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) has risen 320% and the number of advertisers has jumped three-fold in its fifth year, a leading Star Sports executive said at an event in Mumbai, announcing the commencement of the latest season.

The consideration of purchases for sponsorships increased from 59% to 71% after season four, said Anil Jayraj, head of ad sales and executive vice president, Star Sports India.

According to Jayraj, the jump in sponsorship revenue and the number of advertisers over Season two numbers occurred because of increase in viewership. “Nearly 50% of our current advertisers have advertised with us at least in one of the previous seasons and 90% have seen their competitors benefiting and thus, decided to advertise," he added.

PKL has 12 teams and more than 130 matches, making it the largest sporting league in terms of the number of teams and matches played. The auction of the 227 players fetched Rs46.99 crore for the teams. The league’s four new teams have been backed by corporates such as Adani Wilmar Ltd and JSW Sports Pvt Ltd.

“The player purse has grown from Rs50 lakh to Rs4 crore. The franchises have been encouraging by supporting longer seasons and increasing their expenditure across the board. We are one of the few leagues that have shown season-on-season viewership growth," said Anupam Goswami, league commissioner, Pro Kabaddi.

Even team sponsors are upbeat about the future and are investing in training. “U Mumba has opened a training academy in Kerala to develop in-house talent. We will train 50 boys every year and they may well have the opportunity to play in the League," said Supratik Sen, chief executive officer, Team U Mumba.

To be sure, the advertising economics is positive for the sporting league. Group M, a media investment management company, in its third-party report on the sports business in India, said that on-ground sponsorship in kabaddi grew by 13% year-on-year and that cricket’s contribution in the overall pie has fallen. “Nearly about 61% of 2016’s on-ground sponsorship was contributed by three deals, one of which is VIVO’s title sponsor deal with Pro Kabaddi," said Vinit Karnik, business head (entertainment, sports & live events), Group M.

Meanwhile to engage viewers, PKL has showcased the sport as gripping and athletic, while retaining its inherent “Indianness". “We built up our players as heroes and explained the game’s rules to internalize it among the urban Indian audiences who may not have been exposed to it. The thought of ‘Le Panga’ was created to send across an image of courage, taking on the odds and youthful energy," said a Star India spokesperson.

The sports league has also roped in sports and film personalities such as Virender Sehwag, Saina Nehwal, Shikhar Dhawan and Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan to increase visibility on social media or make appearances on match-days.

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