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Business News/ News / India/  Prime Volleyball to look for investors as value tops $90 million
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Prime Volleyball to look for investors as value tops $90 million

In 2022, the first edition of Prime Volleyball took place with seven franchises, of which five had been part of Pro Volleyball

Prime Volleyball was co-founded in 2021 by Baseline Ventures, and five original franchise owners of now-defunct Pro Volleyball. Premium
Prime Volleyball was co-founded in 2021 by Baseline Ventures, and five original franchise owners of now-defunct Pro Volleyball.

MUMBAI:Prime Volleyball League, India’s first private sporting league, will soon start looking at getting a strategic investor, as its valuation has more than quadrupled since its inception to over $90 million, said a top executive.

Prime Volleyball was co-founded in 2021 by Indian sports marketing firm Baseline Ventures, the erstwhile promoter of the Pro Volleyball league, along with five original franchise owners of the now-defunct Pro Volleyball. In 2020, just after the initial season of Pro Volleyball, the Volleyball Federation of India (VFI) and Baseline got embroiled in a dispute and the federation terminated the 10-year contract with Baseline, alleging breach of trust.

While the Madras high court-appointed arbitrator found the contract termination wrongful and awarded 4.5 crore to Baseline as compensation, the sports marketing agency got the support of five franchise owners to launch a private volleyball league in the country that has an operating structure similar to NBA (National Basketball Association), Major League Soccer (MLS) and other US sporting leagues, where team owners are also stakeholders in the leagues.

In 2022, the first edition of Prime Volleyball took place with seven franchises, of which five had been part of Pro Volleyball. Since then, the league has added one new franchise every season. Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari, co-founders of the payments platform PhonePe, acquired the eighth franchise, Mumbai Meteors, last year, while Alok Sanghi, director of the Sanghi Group, bought the ninth team, the Delhi Toofans, ahead of the third season.

“We are delighted and honoured to witness the response from top businesses and organizations, showcasing their interest in partnering with Prime Volleyball League each year. We are already in talks to add one more final team after the third season to make Prime Volleyball a 10-team league," Tuhin Mishra, managing director and co-founder of Baseline Ventures, which exclusively co-owns and markets the league, told Mint.

He said the valuation of the league, after the last addition, is upwards of $90 million.

“We are already seeing interest from potential investors, including strategic and private equity, who want to be a part of the league. We will explore the option after talking to all the stakeholders," Mishra added.

The league has created a positive impact on players and the ecosystem, said Vinit Karnik, head of sports, esports and entertainment at GroupM in South Asia. “What it needs is scale and further penetration into grassroots of India. Professional academies and structured marketing of the sport and the league is what needs to be addressed," Karnik added.

Last year, media reports said that Binny Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart, picked up a 10% stake in the Bengaluru franchise of the Prime Volleyball League for 10 crore, valuing the team at 100 crore.

“Most franchises are valued at 100 crore– 125 crore and they can also look at unlocking their value," Mishra added.

Initially, all the original franchises were given a 15% stake in the league, along with Baseline Ventures. All the new teams are entitled to a stake in the league as per the format with the cost and revenues shared equally among them.

Mishra said all the teams are aware that the breakeven period is close to six years, and they are on track. “The cost is not too high, and all the team owners are in for a long term as they also own a stake in the league. This is the beauty of the format," he said.

Meanwhile, Prime Volleyball has roped in 18 sponsors and partners ahead of its third season, which is scheduled to start on 15 February in Chennai.

As per market estimates, the league, which is recognized by the international governing body the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB), will make around 20 crore from sponsorships, a big amount for a non-cricket league of this size.

Both RuPay, the flagship product of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), and gaming platform A23 are continuing their partnership as the title sponsor and ‘powered by’ sponsor, respectively. Nippon Paint, Amul Kool, State Bank of India (SBI), Indian Oil, and Cred have come on board as associate sponsors, while Cosco and Indian Terrain have joined the league as official sponsors.

“The fact that so many of our sponsors continue to support us every season is an indication of the level of trust that we have built in the industry over the years. We are all equally excited for the coming season and are confident that this time, it will be even bigger, better and bolder," Mishra added.

Last month, the league roped in Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan as its brand ambassador. The league follows a 15-point format and new concepts such as super serves and super points. The second season saw a 55% increase in viewership on Sony Sports Network.

The third season will also be aired on Sony Sports Network in five languages—English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam—and live-streamed on SonyLiv from the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, Chennai.

The league is supported by the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDTA) as its host partners.

HRX, Gleneagles HealthCity Chennai, PPL, and Mera Hoardings have also come on board as official partners while Piston des Sports will continue to offer athlete management services during the third season.

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Published: 13 Feb 2024, 10:44 PM IST
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