EXCLUSIVE: We aim for every product we create to bring the fans closer to the players – Ravi Kukreja, Co-Founder of playR

Mr Kukreja spoke about the sports merchandising ecosystem in India, CTV's various offerings, and behind-the-scenes of the playR's pact with IPL teams and more.

playR, one of the leading sports and lifestyle brands, partnered with Punjab Kings (PBKS), Rajasthan Royals (RR), Mumbai Indians (MI), Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024.

For the ongoing season, playR is the official global exclusive merchandise partner of all the aforementioned IPL teams. playR offers a wide range of gear, accessories, and lifestyle goods that enable fans to display their love, devotion, and support for their preferred IPL teams.

Founded in 2021, playR is a well-known sports and leisure company. Its goal is to provide customers with unique and edgy clothing, athletic gear, bicycles, and accessories that embrace their personal style and empower them to express it. It also offers products through multiple-brand online merchants in addition to its own e-commerce site.

SportsMint Media exclusively interacted with Mr Ravi Kukreja, Co-Founder of playR. Mr Kukreja spoke about the sports merchandising ecosystem in India, CTV’s various offerings, and behind-the-scenes of the playR’s pact with IPL teams and more.

1. Could you kindly elaborate on the evolvement of the sports merchandising ecosystem in India?

Sports merchandising in India became popular due to the Indian Premier League. There was a phase when the likes of adidas and Nike were in sports merchandising. Then came a phase when MPL came in but their primary motive was to have their logo on the India jersey. With IPL, we have been able to get the jerseys out. An increased amount of demand has been generated.

Additionally, we have accomplished a first for the sport: cricket equipment may now be purchased as sports merchandise. From gloves, pads, tennis and leather balls, English willow bats, mugs, bottles, backpacks, and other items are provided by playR as a merchandising partner.

We therefore employ a holistic approach to merchandising items because, once a fan is engaged, we want to make sure that the whole experience becomes a part of his/her daily life and that the full line of sports merchandise covers every stage of the fan’s life.

2. What transpired behind the scenes to get this cooperation off the mark?

We started in 2022 with MI’s international merchandising and they signed us for domestic as well in 2023, which was completely exclusive. While we got the numbers, CSK joined the bandwagon, followed by RR and PBKS. Nothing works like performance and the reason we have been performing is because we are maybe a relatively younger brand, as we started late in 2021. But the founders have been in business for a long time. Being an omnichannel marketing business, iCOREts Private Limited can swiftly turn any product we create and distribute it over several channels.

Unlike the valuation game that is being played right now, for instance, a brand would reserve the goods if it becomes a merchandise partner. It would say, it’s selling products only on its platform. One may choose to do that as a strategy, but it won’t do justice to the fans of the teams.

The omnichannel marketing approach facilitates distribution significantly. That’s very vital because the demand is already there. We started with the fan jersey for these five brands, which is at INR 999. Historically, it has been priced at around INR 2000 to 2500 for each jersey. So it accounts for around 98% of the whole business.

3. How could merchandising be integrated with CTV to present various offerings to fans?

The latest thing in the market is quick commerce and this year, we have been able to handle it. We did the same with adidas for ODI jerseys, where iCOREts Private Limited introduced the adidas jerseys to quick commerce. And now even IPL is available on quick commerce.

Whenever you are in this situation of providing service on the broadcasting platforms, it’s a faster logistical process. We introduced Mumbai Indians fan jerseys on BMS, along with the ticketing.

4. How does playR cater to the varied fans of all these five teams?

Our primary step in this area is giving free tickets to fans. What is important for the fans is to have width. It’s not only the jersey they also want to live the life of the player. We revolve around everything from top to bottom, whatever players wear. We consider that this player is going to be standing in the heat for around 10 hours, playing cricket and training. Along with them, fans will also be sitting there for quite a few hours.

We make sure that the product that we are manufacturing has got sweat release technology and it’s got anti-static. The experience we provide is closest to what the player experiences, except for actually playing it. We aim for every product we create to bring the fans closer to the players. That’s what a jersey is, after all. While you want to support your team, you also want to ensure that you’re feeling like a player and not merely cheering for the squad.

5. playR partnered with five IPL teams; are there any focal points the entity considers before partnering with them?

Along with being the merchandising partner, we are also doing PBKS’ kitting. Whatever is seen worn by the player, from caps to the cricket kit bags, even the physio bag or the flags waved at the stadium, we manufacture everything for Punjab Kings. By doing a better job with one team, we obtained the rest of the teams.

Most of these teams approached us, rather than us approaching them. At the end of the day, it’s not only about income, it’s also about fans.

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