Pioneering Sports Leagues in India: Creating New Opportunities

Do you know how many sports leagues have been launched in India?

Forbes India states that in the past 15 years, 15 sports leagues have taken the country by storm. What started in 2008 with the launch of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has caught on with many sports like Football, Kabaddi, Badminton, Chess, and others.

Here are some of the leading leagues in India:

Indian Premier League (IPL)

IPL is the leading sports league of India. A pioneering league that brings out grassroots cricket talent to national and international limelight. Working on the T-20 format of play in cricket, IPL teams are packed with local talent along with leading international players in cricket. Many high-performing talent from the IPL have been noted to play for the national Indian cricket team.

Sponsorships for IPL for 2023:

• Title Sponsor – Tata.
• Official sponsor partners: RuPay, Dream11, Swiggy, Cred, and Upstox.
• PayTM is the official umpire partner.
• Star Sports as an official broadcast partner amongst others.

Indian Super League (ISL)

As the Football craze takes over the country, ISL is here to offer a platform to young Football players in India. It began operation in 2013 and is also recognized by the Asian Football Confederation. India’s established and historic football clubs like the Mohun Bagan and East Bengal are part of the ISL.

ISL brand sponsorships for 2023:

• Title Sponsor – Hero MotoCorp.
• Official partners: Jindal Panther TMT Rebars, Nivia Sports, Limca Sports, KFC etc.
• The official fantasy sports partner is Dream 11

Pro Kabaddi League (PKL)

PKL has truly revolutionized the ancient sport of Kabaddi. It has gained the status of being one of the most influential leagues in India apart from IPL. PKL was started in 2014 and has held 8 successful seasons. The game has offered growing career opportunities to grassroots-level players, bringing them to the limelight at the international level of fame. If there are sports leagues whose viewership has come close to IPL, it’s the Pro Kabaddi League.

PKL sponsorships for 2023:

• Also known as the VIVO Pro Kabbadi League, PKL has VIVO as their official title sponsor partner.
• Official partners: Tata Motors, A23, Dream 11, Mfine, Byju’s etc.
• Star Sports is PKL’s official media rights partner

Prime Volleyball league (PVL)

One of the newest leagues in India, PVL is an indoor volleyball league. It’s an initiative by Baseline Ventures with its inaugural season played out in 2022. The latest team addition – the Mumbai Meteors team was purchased by the PhonePe owners.

PVL sponsorship in 2023 includes:

• PVL is known as RuPay Prime Volleyball League as RuPay is its prime sponsor.
• Sony Pictures Network India is the official broadcaster of the league.

Other leagues include the likes of:

Premier Badminton League

Pro Wrestling League

Premier Handball League

Pro Panja League

Ultimate Kho Kho

Hockey India League

Indian Women’s League (Football)

and more.

The rise in sports sponsorships and the success of these leagues

The success of many Indian sports leagues can be measured through various indicators, however, the most significant is sponsorship. With exclusive sponsors, these leagues are transcending viewership numbers penetrating tier 3 and 4 cities and rural towns.

Sponsors invest where they see the most advantage. In sports leagues, their investments help them to gain:

1. More eyeballs to their brand image, building their brand. For instance, Byju’s sponsorship at FIFA brought them international attention while they were expanding at global locations.

2. Penetration into tier 2,3,4 markets and rural towns. For instance, PKL is known to help brands reach the varied corners of Indian villages and towns. Thanks to the sport’s (Kabaddi’s) deep-rooted cultural connection with the Indian population.

GroupM’s 10th edition of Sporting Nation Report 2023 reveals unprecedented growth in sports sponsorship in India. Based on the report, the Indian sports industry had spent INR 14,000 crore in 2022. It states the spending on the on-ground team, franchises, etc rising by INR 3021 crore which is a 105% growth from 2021. While most of this spending is focused on cricket, other sports reflect a growth scale. This includes emerging sports like Pro Kabaddi League, marquee marathons, Maharashtra Open, etc.

Impact of Sports Leagues in India

When we have multiple brands investing prime capital in sports teams, players, and leagues, it helps to gauge the impact of the sports franchise leagues.

Catalyzing in developing, nurturing, and uplifting young talent in India, these leagues are a boon to the grassroots level economic growth in India. The influence of these leagues extends beyond the players, it offers pivotal growth for fostering the sports culture of the country. Here’s how the sports league franchises have impacted the country:

a. Investment in sports infrastructure across national, state, district, and rural levels. Take for instance the Leh Football ground. And multiple IPL teams building home team grounds and facilities.

b. Growth of sports opportunities: It brings in a sea of career growth opportunities. Leagues require infrastructure management, coaches, trainers, marketing managers, sponsorship managers, data analysts, etc.

c. Grassroots level talent development: Leagues have special scouts and tie-ups with various local, rural, and grassroots associations and institutions to bring out the best talent to national levels.

d. Start-up culture and entrepreneurship: Many leagues have offered a new sprout of opportunities within their ecosystem. For instance, PKL has inspired the birth of brands like Kabbadi Adda to bring live stats and Kabaddi journalism to life.

e. Fostering a sports culture: One of the key impacts these leagues have is fostering a widespread culture of sports. Schools, offices, residential associations, and many other institutions today run local-level leagues to encourage people to partake in sports.

Sports Career Opportunities

Pursuing a sports management and are wondering about what opportunities are available, here are some options:

a. Sports Journalism: As digital content becomes the prime way of consuming content, there are a large number of sports journalism opportunities:
Basketball writer,
Football writer,
Sports Research Analyst,
Sports Reporter,
Sports show producer,
Sports commentator/ presenter,
Sports Editor and so on.

b. Brand management: Many brands are building verticals dedicated to investment in sports leagues. With rising viewership in sports leagues and tournaments, brands seek managers to build their new sports investment brand vertical and handle end-to-end brand management. These opportunities vary from:
Sports Marketing,
Sports Adwords Managers,
Sports Sponsorships Managers,
Sports Partnerships and Alliances,
Strategists and Planners, etc.

c. Events: A rising vertical is one of events management. Brands like BookMyShow and PayTM Insider are becoming key partners with sports leagues to manage their events. The opportunities for careers in this are:
Sports Operations Management,
Facility and Operations Management,
Team travel manager,
Ticketing manager,
Customer Engagement Manager,
Community Manager etc.

Grassroots-level engagement of sports leagues in India brings exposure to talented players. Helping to enhance the viewership of these leagues where talent gains true value. The leagues today have built a successful ecosystem around them fostering the growth of Indian talent. Building a professional pool of international quality talent.

Author: Mankiran