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How Non-Cricket Sports Drive Economy in Indian Sports Leagues: From Field to Finance

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Cricket has been a dominant sport in India for many years, attracting the largest amounts of attention, viewership as well as investment. However, time has changed. In recent times there has been a major swing with non-cricketing sports gaining traction. These non-cricketing sports such as Chess, Kabaddi and Kho Kho are currently among the most popular games in the country that have now become big contributors to the national sports economy. That means things are changing wider than before.

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Success Stories of Non-Cricket Leagues

Pro Kabaddi and Ultimate Kho Kho | KreedOn
Image Source: MyKhel

The success of non-cricket sports leagues such as the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) and Ultimate Kho-Kho has shown that they can be just as watchable as cricket, thereby attracting investments. These leagues have thrived because they managed to draw sponsorships and corporate investors. Notably, Ultimate Kho-Kho was able to secure Series A funding from a UK-based private equity firm within a single season.

In particular, PKL turned out to be a game-changer for good. When PKL started in 2014, many doubted if a league on an Indian traditional sport would succeed though their doubts were later dispelled. A smart marketing strategy along with TV-friendly innovations helped propel PKL to become the second most watched league after IPL with 222 million viewers according to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), 2022 data. This evolution has led to lucrative sponsorship deals and investments, with brands like Vivo, Tata Motors and Dabur joining as title sponsors or associate sponsors. The triumph of the league also affected the sport itself by increasing its popularity and improving grassroots infrastructure.

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Government Support and Initiative

Khelo India | KreedOn
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Furthermore, the role of non-cricket sports in driving sports’ economy has not escaped Indian authorities either. Evidently, the rising sports budget and schemes such as Khelo India by the Government show an effort to promote and develop other games aside from cricket. According to The Ormax Sports Audiences Report: 2024 Football, Kabaddi, Hockey, Badminton, Athletics, Volleyball among others have massive viewership across the country with football having an audience of about 305 million people while kabaddi boasts of 280 million fans respectively.

The Khelo India scheme which was started in 2016 is aimed at finding and developing young talents in all areas of sports. In this context the government supports sportspersons financially, as well as through training activities to help them reach their full potential. This investment into grassroots development not just helps in discovering upcoming champions but also forms a strong foundation for non-cricket sports in the country’s economy. Moreover, the Olympics have seen India making progress with at least one medal being won during each Olympic Games since 1996 showing the impact of increased support from the Government.

Corporate Investments and Involvement

The launch of Pro Kabaddi | KreedOn
Image Source: Sportskeeda

Corporate India has recognized other sporting avenues than cricket and invested heavily on this area. Companies like JSW, Adani and Tatas have made huge investments in non-cricket leagues as they understand that it makes sense to diversify their sporting interests. The launch of popular leagues such as Pro Kabaddi League by Anand Mahindra among others indicates that people have huge hopes for these sports.

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These corporate investments are vital in providing funding required and adding strategic advice, marketing plans, and infrastructure growth. As a result of this, the management of these leagues is professionalized and their resilience to time is ensured. Emerging sports have continued to attract sponsorship as depicted in GroupM ESP’s ‘Sporting Nation – Building a Legacy’ report, which cites a proportion of 21%, equivalent to INR 1528 crore.

The Rise of Viewership and Fan Base

How Non-Cricket Sports Drive Economy in Indian Sports Leagues: From Field to Finance | KreedOn
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Growing viewership and fan base is one of the main reasons behind the rise of non-cricketing sports in India. Although cricket remains dominant within the country’s sports landscape, an observable change has been noted in terms of people’s attitude towards other sporting disciplines. For example, Neeraj Chopra’s gold medal winning throw at the Tokyo Olympics last year was viewed by 60 million people on International Olympic Committee (IOC) streaming platforms compared to the entire Indian audience for Rio de Janeiro Games held in 2016.

Football, kabaddi, badminton, and hockey have gained popularity with fans filling stadiums and tuning-in to watch their preferred teams or players play matches. Presently, events like Asian Hockey Championship, FIH Pro-League and India Open badminton are witnessing packed stadiums. This increased viewership has not only boosted the leagues’ revenues but has also attracted more sponsors and investors, further fueling the growth of the sports economy.


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The Impact on the Sports Economy

India's Economy Is Gathering up Speed | KreedOn
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The overall economy of sports in India has been significantly affected by the emergence of non-cricket sports. Diversifying the sporting landscape, these leagues have opened up new growth opportunities. The result is an increased investment, sponsorship and viewership translating into more returns for leagues and also teams which subsequently improve on facilities; training as well as payment that athletes receive. This has led to professionalization of the sports industry and a creation of new career paths for upcoming sportsmen. Furthermore, success achieved by these leagues has benefited other related industries such as sport equipment manufacturing, media rights and sport tourism. These sectors will continue growing in economic terms as their popularity keeps increasing with time.

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The Future of Non-Cricket Sports in India

How Non-Cricket Sports Drive Economy in Indian Sports Leagues: From Field to Finance | KreedOn
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India’s non-cricketing future looks bright. These games are likely to become even more significant in the Indian sports economy with continued government support, corporate investments and expanding fan base. By launching more leagues and expanding existing ones, there are only going to be more opportunities for growth and development. However, the means for accomplishing this lie in keeping the momentum ongoing so that these leagues remain innovative, adaptable and engaging to their audiences.

In this regard, the leagues may build up a sustainable ecosystem that thrives by endorsing sports through marketing strategy and improving its infrastructure as well as investing in grassroots development. This will have positive effects on the economy not only through creation of employment opportunities but also raising revenues for the government and promoting healthier lifestyles.

Conclusion

To sum up, the growth of non-cricket sports in India demonstrates that the country’s sports culture is on its way to diversify within the industry. In future, India should continue supporting such games like Pro Kabaddi League and Ultimate Kho-Kho which have been successful so far and improving them until they become more lively sports environments serving both athletes, fans and the Indian economy as a whole.


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