afaqs!, New Delhi & Mumbai
Brands and Sports marketing

Sandeep Walunj, Chief Marketing Officer, Reliance Nippon Life AMC

Associating with PKL is efficient & impactful.

Kabaddi has amassed a following for itself. Thanks to Pro Kabaddi League, the homegrown sport has received a professional make-over and has now become a cool sport not just for the consumers but also for the brands by virtue of its inherent appeal to the roots and impactful promotional assets.

We interviewed Sandeep Walunj, Chief Marketing Officer, Reliance Nippon Life AMC, to know his views on the growing popularity of Kabaddi, along with Atif Shaikh, Group Head - Planning, PHD and Vamshidhar Yadagiri, Associate Vice President, OMD India.

Edited Excerpts:

Kabaddi particularly has seen a growing interest thanks to PKL and is now the second most popular sports property. Did you ever consider that a traditional Indian sport will catch the fancy of international brands? What factors do you attribute this growth to?

Well, I have seen cricket grow in front of my eyes and so have various local festivals. So thankfully, we at AMFI were prepared for Kabaddi. What is driving its growth is the appeal of the roots, the professional make-over given to the game by the League management, solid property-building by Star Sports, and of course, the transforming semi-urban India!

What could be, in your opinion, the ways to keep this popularity of Kabaddi growing?

Continue to make it the ‘In- thing’, build the professional image of players, dial up the human-interest appeal of the players, develop the experience around the arena, improve the quality of commentary – keep making it as ‘cool’ as possible.

How does it make sense to be associated with leagues like PKL & ISL which offer brands to get on-air and on-ground assets from one rights holder?

Oh, it’s so much simpler, efficient, and impactful. Last year’s association came with all the on-ground and on-air visibility, activation, hospitality, and those super-effective TVCs that we were able to do with players of all teams! Can you imagine the cost and effort this would have taken with something like IPL? (Well I know since I worked for PepsiCo during IPL 1 and 2!)


In 4 years’ time, the way PKL has grown and consequently Kabaddi, it is not hard to picture it as a rival to its cricketing sibling IPL. However, there’s still a lot left. Digital and TV viewership metrics, meaningful associations, and high-level consumer engagements are yet to be explored completely. With leagues like PKL offering a good mix of on-air visibility along with on-ground activation opportunities, how best do you think marketers can leverage this relatively new property?

Atif Shaikh
Atif Shaikh

Atif Shaikh, Group Head - Planning, PHD

“PKL has definitely taken Indian sports by a storm and has proved to be a successful sporting property although it has a long way to go when it comes to challenging IPL. PKL has turned out to provide advertisers an inexpensive Non-cricket impact option in the Sports Genre. With the growth in the number of teams and the league reaching out to the hinterlands where the sport is most famous PKL is the most apt property for marketers looking to foray into “Rural” India.

As is the case with any sports, strong grassroots is a must for the sport and the league to grow, advertisers should fashion out partnerships with franchises and create grassroots level programs that go beyond the period of just the on-air season of two months. Coupling this sort of a program with high amplification on TV and digital during the live matches will enable brands to create an elongated and profound connect with its consumers.”

Vamshidhar Yadagiri
Vamshidhar Yadagiri

Vamshidhar Yadagiri , Associate Vice President, OMD India

With influx of emerging sports and our apetite to consume content across entertainment and Sports , leaguelization of Sports is on the rise across other sports.

PKL, PBL , ISL and PWL to quote some examples, These emerging sports with local connect are attracting eyeballs and brands started leveraging this connect and viewership to build brands and engage.

With Mobile handsets and Auto already in the race more and more brands are exploring to leverage the trend and with the Star players as emerging celebrities are helping brands to endorse at a low entry cost.

Have news to share? Write to us