afaqs!, New Delhi & Mumbai
Brands and Sports marketing

Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Sr. Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India

PKL has given a new shape and spotlight to Kabaddi.

Pro Kabaddi League proves that with ample backing, adequate training, and proper infrastructure, a traditional Indian sport can be registered in the favorite's list of audiences. Moreover, it establishes the fact that such homegrown sports could be taken to a global arena.

We interviewed Mr. Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India along with Avinash Hegde, Vice President, Lodestar UM, and Akila Jayaraman, Senior Account Director, Essence to know their thoughts on Kabaddi.

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?

Last five years have been phenomenal for Indian sports. Few years back if any marketer was asked to associate with a sport like kabaddi, how many would have wanted to? But today, Pro Kabaddi League has given a new shape and spotlight to this game.

The energy & pace of the game is not only bringing fans from small towns only but also from cities. It is an excellent case of how the potential of a (home grown) sport can get revived and harnessed with due attention, care and packaging. With this growing popularity within and outside the country, Kabaddi is turning out to be a potential global sport.

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

More such innovative properties should be created to promote Kabaddi not just at domestic, but also at international level. New formats, more games on the annual calendar, continued backing of the stake holders along with better infrastructure & training should be provided across country which will attract more players to join the game.

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

Properties like Pro Kabaddi League & Indian Soccer League offer a unique opportunity to receive comprehensive access to both - on air and on ground rights which opens up completely new dimensions of value creation for marketers. There are other opportunities like in match experience zones which a brand can leverage upon. Additionally, impactful activations done on ground with players /product engagement and amplification through social media and PR could help create a higher associative value.

With consumers having different screens at their disposal, a relatively new property has enough room for innovation in advertising. How do you see the future in this light?

With increasing means and adoption of personalized communication based on media exposure, we can engage into a meaningful & exciting engagement with our consumers. The future looks very exciting.

A league like PKL offers brands an opportunity for some unique activations, how can brands take advantage of such opportunities by doing customized activations?

Yes, brands do and can harness activation opportunities, depending on the brand KPI (Key Performance Indicator). The specifics may follow with a collaborative approach syncing key ingredients focused on agreed deliverables.


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?

Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Sr. Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India

Avinash Hegde, Vice President, Lodestar UM

Kabaddi is a homegrown sport and very popular in the heartland of India. PKL has revamped the viewers interest and added glamour to the sport. PKL today is the second biggest league after IPL. It has managed to increase its reach year on year. Reach numbers are approximately 70% of that of IPL. PKL reached 274 mn viewers (All audience) in its 5th season. On Male 15+ NCCS ABC there is a growth of 187% on reach and 73% in TVRs when compared to PKL season 2 in 2015. In a country which is dominated by cricket, PKL now gives marketers an opportunity to be creative in their association with the sport and not be restricted. Brands can be interestingly associated bringing about their core proposition. Particularly where brands are looking to bring out aggression, never die attitude, agility, and strength. Since would be a good imagery there are teams representing markets it benefits brand to pick the markets where they need the brand thrust. Moreover, for local brands, association with PKL and visibility on national platform boosts imagery and credibility. Association with teams, usage of players images, meet and greet, dealer activation, consumer engagement, promotions to name a few are the opportunities that can be leveraged by brands. Apart this visibility on TV is a big booster for local brands as well. Number of advertisers who have partnered with the sport has increased over the years which are clear indication of the gaining popularity of PKL.

Akila Jayaraman
Akila Jayaraman

Akila Jayaraman, Senior Account Director, Essence

Let’s not see PKL as a rival of cricketing sibling IPL. With decades being invested in cricket, it is phenomenal to see how Kabbadi and specially PKL has caught the attention of fans and marketers alike. Some reports have suggested that interest in PKL to have grown significantly, making it the second-most popular and watched sports league on TV in India after IPL. Additionally, consumers now view Kabaddi as being more “Modern,” “Innovative” and “Entertaining.” This presents a great opportunity for marketers to associate with these attributes and the league's growing audience base on levels beyond inventory and tap the engaged audience in an integrated way across online and offline platforms. According to various sources, in the last season, PKL saw a 2 X jump in TV reach, while monthly search volumes for PKL franchises saw a 4x jump during the season, the conversations jumped a whopping 22x during the season over the rest of the year indicating an opportunity for brands to actively also be part of the social conversations. There is opportunity beyond the urban markets too, with sports viewership increasing in rural areas as well with Kabbadi being more popular, making PKL comparable to IPL in rural India.