Exclusive: We combined Kolkata Thunderbolts’ brand and marketing goals with our skill set to create a richer and more humane concoction – Saketh Ayyagari, Head of Growth and Marketing, The Bridge

Mr Saketh revealed intriguing details about The Bridge's collaboration with Kolkata Thunderbolts.

The Bridge, which provides daily sports updates and envisions bridging the gap in Indian sports, partnered with the inaugural champions of the RuPay Prime Volleyball League (PVL), Kolkata Thunderbolts. The association was forged before the commencement of the second season and The Bridge joined the team as an associate sponsor.

The Bridge works for ushering a massive change in the sports ecosystem by providing much-needed exposure to several different sports across the nation.

In a conversation with Mr Saketh Ayyagari, Head of Growth and Marketing, The Bridge, SportsMint Media learned about intriguing details about The Bridge’s collaboration with Kolkata Thunderbolts. Mr Saketh went on to talk about The Bridge’s ethos, the primary reason behind partnering with the PVL team, increased investment in volleyball and its potential, coverage of sports in different tier cities, and much more.

1. What was the bigger picture behind venturing into volleyball?

Since day one, The Bridge’s vision was/is “bridging the gap in Indian Sports”. Looking at the sports ecosystem in the country, putting aside cricket and to an extent football, all the other sports have failed to receive the spotlight they needed historically. Volleyball also falls into the same category. When we looked at our experience and expertise to create impactful content which can reach the pan-Indian audience coupled with the scope and potential of volleyball and Prime Volleyball League (PVL) in the country, it was the perfect fit for us to take this important step.

2. With cricket acquiring a lion’s share in the sports marketing industry, where does volleyball stand in that sector?

Men’s cricket is a juggernaut unlike any other sport in the country in every aspect – talent pool, fanbase and revenue. The 1983 World Cup win and the decisive steps taken in the following decades were instrumental in propelling the sport to the pedestal we see it today. Thus, it is important to treat cricket as a benchmark to aspire for, and not a yardstick to compare other Indian sports with. Volleyball has the chance to become a dominant sport in the country, given the penetration, it already has in sub-urban regions. The right decisions taken with the sport’s best interests at heart coupled with a bit of luck at key moments can see this ball sport increase its share faster in the next 5 years than one would expect.

3. Can monetary enhancements in this sport motivate aspirants to choose volleyball as a profession?

It is no secret that money put into the sport is paramount for sustained development and results. For any player, the increased investment would imply better bank balances and higher motivation to pursue volleyball as a career. For example, the top players in the Prime Volleyball League earn around ~18 lakhs, which pales in comparison to the tens of crores earned by the superstars in the IPL or even the few crores earned by the women cricketers in the recently concluded WPL auction. Thus, more money into the sport can only have a positive trickle-down effect in the long run.

4. What major steps did The Bridge take while highlighting the key aspects of Kolkata Thunderbolts?

One of the gaps we see regularly in non-cricketing sports coverage is the blandness of it, focussing more on the results than the stories. Further, ideating, creating and distributing content in these sports which are actually engaging is a hard-earned and tough-learned skill at The Bridge, and is one of our biggest strengths. When it came to Kolkata Thunderbolts, we combined their brand and marketing goals with our skill-set to create a richer and more humane concoction, thereby connecting the people, the team, the league and therefore the sport to the widest audience possible.

5. Did The Bridge execute an offline initiative in this partnership?

As a digital-first organisation, our primary goal involved creating a tangible impact and reach
for Kolkata Thunderbolts. Our team was on-ground to interact and create the right content
beyond the playing and non-playing staff of the team. This included bringing out the
fanbase’s pulse right from the stadium during games, with all their passion for the team. This
was followed by a wide-scale distribution across our 10+ channels, thus combining the best
of online and offline aspects for maximum impact.

6. Why did The Bridge specifically partner up with Kolkata Thunderbolts?

Initially, when we were looking for the best partner to venture into the Prime Volleyball
League, winners from season one of PVL, Kolkata Thunderbolts, showed the perfect intent
and initiative to do more for bringing their players and team, and thereby the sport further
into the spotlight. Their top management, from the owners Mr Pawan Kumar Patodia and Mr
Vineet Bhandari to the Team Director Mr Sumedh Patodia, exuded strong belief in our work,
vision and what we can bring to the table. Hence, it was a no-brainer for us really.

7. What different tactics does The Bridge use for media coverage of a team and sport in Tier 1 and Tier 2&3 cities?

The media coverage strategy for different segments of the audience distinctly depends on
a) The sport itself – Some sports like Motorsport are urban-first whereas sports like volleyball
and kabaddi are rural-dominated. This changes the way we approach our planning.
b) The platforms – Thanks to our data-driven approach, we are well aware of how different
audiences on different platforms like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or our website consume
sports – both the preferred sport as well as the type of content for that particular sport.
Thus, by combining these two, our tireless, agile and passionate editorial teams put on their
thinking hats and weave the magic, catering to different audiences and their preferences.

8. What will be the positive impact of the impressive Union Budget Sports Allocation on the sports business industry?

As discussed in a previous question, investment into the sport, both at the elite and
grassroot levels, is oxygen for growth. Out of the INR 3397 crores allocated, around 35% is
towards athletes who could represent India. The remaining 65% is towards the likes of Khelo
India (>30% of the total), whose focus is on the grassroots and youth levels. This is a great
opportunity for the decision-makers to spend the funds well and achieve international
success on one end while solidifying a steady pipeline of world-class athletes through the
various grassroots and educational initiatives.

9. Does The Bridge plan to team up with an IPL franchise soon?

Our vision to bridge the gap in Indian Sports and focus on the lesser-covered and
lesser-spoken sides of Indian Sports leaves us with little room to create a notable impact in
men’s outdoor cricket and by extension, the Indian Premier League. Having said that, the
IPL franchises are easily among the biggest sporting brands in the country and quite a few of
them utilise their resources and energies to impact women’s cricket and grassroots sports in
their regions. If we look at it, 4 out of the 5 Women’s Premier League (WPL) franchises also
own an IPL team. Thus, we are open and willing to collaborate with IPL franchises when the
right opportunity arrives where we can push the boundaries of existing media coverage for
the betterment of Indian Sports

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