The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) is all set to return for its tenth season tomorrow, and teams are all ready to put forth their strongest seven players on the mat as excitement mounts. The Capri Global-owned team, Bengal Warriors are one of the teams that have drawn interest from both fans and analysts.
The Warriors, who are well-known for their fierce competitiveness and impressive talent pool, have made some calculated choices about the lineup of their team for PKL 10.
The side, which will begin their season 10 campaign on December 4 against Bengaluru Bulls, has made the sensible decision to hang onto their current young talent, given that they have the potential to perform outstandingly in the upcoming season. Young players like Suyog Baban Gaikar, Parshant Kumar, and Vaibhav Bhausaheb Garje were retained. In past seasons, these promising youngsters have demonstrated their abilities and tenacity.
Although the Warriors have kept hold of several young, talented players, they have decided not to hold onto any classified players. This daring move suggested that the side looked for new players to restructure their roster and find a winning formula for PKL 10.
With such an approach, the side that possesses a strong mentality also brings in commercial opportunities that can enhance the side’s brand value.
Exploring the business aspect of the team, SportsMint Media got the opportunity to speak to Mr Apurv Gupta, Senior Vice President – Contact Sports, Capri Sports.
During the exclusive interview, Mr Gupta spoke on a wide range of topics, including the retention of Maninder Singh, modifications in the business model and more.
1. How has the journey been so far for the team, on and off the field, commercially?
The journey has been good, Kabaddi as a sport from season one has grown tremendously. It’s expanded from eight to 12 teams in 2017 and Bengal Warriors as a franchise have been quite consistent with Maninder being our star player over the years. So we’ve done well, and we hope that we continue to grow as the sport grows.
2. Does retaining a star player like Maninder an added advantage for the team on the business front?
Retaining your star player always helps. Fans wanted him back, and our fan base was quite vocal about their love for him. So, obviously, when we entered the auctions, we didn’t know how things would go, as auctions are dynamic, but we are very glad and happy that he’s back with us. A robust fan base is always helpful as it makes the sponsors happy, as well.
3. How does Bengal Warriors aim to grow more commercially from this season onwards?
I think there’s a large appetite to be developed when it comes to this franchise. The good thing is that after a two-year hiatus, we are back in Bengal, so we want to activate the region. We want to get the fans back in the stadium. As I said, the auction has been great for us. We’ve got a good-looking team now with Maninder at the centre. So, hopefully, all of this contributes to better revenues and better sponsorships for us, and then we’ll continue to engage with brands, which will help us grow commercially.
4. Could a hike in the budget for the auction also motivate modifications in the business model to generate more revenue?
I think as a sport grows, as players become more and more popular and as fanbases grow, more revenue lines will open up and more revenue opportunities will also open up along with it. Overall, sports in India are growing, and more opportunities are opening up, so we continue to evaluate those. We will also put some seeds hopefully this season for future revenues and future commercial lines for us as well and we hope that in the years to come, that can reward us.
5. Since it is the 10th year of the competition, what different marketing tactics will be seen from the previous seasons?
The biggest difference this year is that we’re going back to the home market. Season seven was the last time we played in Calcutta. So now, going back to West Bengal to our home city, i.e., Kolkata, is really going to make a difference for us because we’ll be able to tap into our local fans. We have been working through some fan experience ideas. What we want to do is, we want to make the whole experience for our fans extremely memorable.
6. PKL has massively helped athletes, teams, and all the professionals monetarily for the past decade now, what’s your thoughts on this?
It’s heartening to see, right? I mean Kabaddi is an Indian sport and Bengal Warriors have been one of the original founding franchises of the league. The way players are now being rewarded for their athletics, the kind of salaries they are getting and not only the star players but overall is quite commendable.
I also feel that as professional athletes, they love the fact that fans recognize them, and fans appreciate the hard work that they put in for so many years. I think it’s been great for the ecosystem, which allows franchisees then to give back even more and set up grassroots, and other initiatives like that.
7. While signing sponsors for the team, what approach does your team have? Is there any specific group of companies that the side aims for?
The strategy varies from year to year; it also depends on how the market is and which companies are looking more towards sports and contact sports. We’ve got a dedicated team that looks into it and studies the market and the brands that are keen to be associated.
I think a brand fit is extremely important. Even for us, when we are looking at our strategy, we look at which kind of brands we want to be associated with. All of that is taken into consideration when our sponsorship and commercial teams prepare the proposal and approach different brands.
8. What is the communication between you and the sponsorship and sales teams?
We work very closely. We’re all one big unit that is working towards building the overall brand of the franchise. Even though we look at different aspects of it, for me, as the head of contact sports, it is important to understand and be in regular touch with the commercial team and work with them to enable them to do their best. Be it in terms of player access or unlocking some other opportunities.
9. What’s your opinion on PKL being without a title sponsor at the moment?
We had a great auction in October and such an event is always a key for a lot of sponsors, so I’m sure the league is working hard to get a great sponsor for the league. They’ve done it in the past so I’m not worried at all about that. I’m sure we’ll get a title sponsor very soon.