Let's play

May 20 2014, 19:22 IST
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SummaryAn amazing cocktail of sports enthusiasts, broadcast networks, corporate groups and Bollywood celebrities are ushering in an alternate sports revolution in the country.

When Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan last month bought the Jaipur franchise of Pro Kabaddi league, he added Bollywood pizzazz to the newly minted Indian Premier League-style sports tournament to be held in the country in July-August this year. The league is a joint initiative of industrialist Anand Mahindra and sports commentator Charu Sharma and would feature eight city based franchises that would play on a home-and-away basis. Bachchan joins other marquee names of franchise holders such as Ronnie Screwvala (Mumbai), Kishore Biyani (Kolkata), Uday Kotak (Pune), Rana Kapoor (Delhi), Core Green Group (Vizag) and Kalapathi Investments (Chennai). The league has the backing of the International Kabaddi Federation, Asian Kabaddi Federation and Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India. The promoters have roped in the Singapore-based World Sports Group to market the event.

The country’s largest media buyer GroupM India estimates that between 2008-2013 sports marketing spends rose roughly twofold, with a total spend of R21.39 billion in 2008 which rose by 92% to R41.1 billion by 2014. The market is slotted to grow exponentially in the next few years with other sports such as football, basketball, distance running, golf, motorsport, tennis, hockey, etc., complementing the cricket story.

This is quite easily the most exciting and volatile time for the sports genre in India, with alternative sports being given its share of limelight and professional leagues being launched and others being planned and plotted. Brightly-lit stadiums, frenzied audiences, coloured confetti, cheer leaders, merchandise are all par for the course, and the properties are being promoted and cushioned by corporate groups, broadcast groups and Bollywood.

Charu Sharma, director of Mashal Sports, says that his connect with kabaddi came as a result of being the world feed commentator for the sport during the Doha Asian Games in 2006. “It was easy to see that with appropriate marketing, television and the infusion of reputed corporate entities, kabaddi could become huge as a spectator sport. The plans took some time to brew, but were finally set in motion when Anand Mahindra, realising the immense popularity, potential and patriotism connected to this unique Indian heritage sport, came on board as a co-promoter,” he said.

Sharma is delighted with the response that he has had from various corporate groups who have come in as franchise owners, and others who are interested in coming on board as sponsors. “With its pan-Indian following and mass based support, Pro Kabaddi should be

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