Case Study: How PUMA's WPL campaign tackling gender bias reached 300 million+ users

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PUMA encouraged the audience to break the gender bias around cricket with WPL campaign #IndianCricketTeamCaptainHarmanpreetKaur. The campaign focussed on making Google searches around Indian cricket team captain, more inclusive.

This Case Study explores how PUMA used social media to rewire Google search results in their Women's Premier League (WPL) campaign. PUMA encouraged netizens to change the results to the question 'who is Indian cricket team captain?' by flooding social media with a hashtag.

Category Introduction

The sneakers and athleisure category is primarily driven by aspiration. The high price points in this category mean that you need people to buy into the Brand, to buy the product. Thus, most campaigns done by PUMA focus on building brand affinity and increasing top of the funnel which in turn leads to bottom of the funnel impact. 

Brand Introduction 

PUMA is one of the world’s leading sports brands, designing, developing, selling and marketing footwear, apparel and accessories. For 75 years, PUMA has relentlessly pushed sport and culture forward by creating fast products for the world’s fastest athletes. PUMA offers performance and sport-inspired lifestyle products in categories such as Football, Running and Training, Basketball, Golf and Motorsports. It collaborates with renowned designers and brands to bring sport influences into street culture and fashion. The PUMA Group owns the brands PUMA, Cobra Golf and stichd. The company distributes its products in more than 120 countries, employs about 20,000 people worldwide and is headquartered in Herzogenaurach/Germany.


Cricket has always been known as a gentleman’s sport. Over the years, women cricketers have stepped up and started taking over the pitch as well, with some of them shattering multiple records, creating history and being an inspiration to every young girl. However, we as a country still continue to associate the sport with men. This clearly reflects in the search algorithm on Google, which when asked an ungendered question “who is the captain of the Indian cricket team” continues to throw up results of Indian male cricketers only. 

Harmanpreet Kaur's achievements as a cricketer and captain are no short of legendary. An Arjuna awardee, the most capped Indian player in T20I across men’s and women’s, and the Indian captain with the highest win % in ODIs, Harmanpreet’s career is a testament to her skill and leadership. Conspicuous omissions from results that are factually indisputable just go to show the extent to which women in sport, and their achievements are often overlooked. 

To break this gender bias, PUMA India initiated a nationwide petition on social media to change the answers to this question and ensure Harmanpreet Kaur’s name shows up as well. 

Through a thought-provoking video, PUMA highlighted the issue, and urged Indians to come together to attempt to change the results by flooding social media with the hashtag - #IndianCricketTeamCaptainHarmanpreetKaur. 

Also Read: The era of transparent packaging: What brands need to know about FSSAI’s new packaging regulations


Historically, women's cricket has not received the same level of investment and support as men's cricket. This has resulted in a lack of opportunities for women to play cricket, as well, limited resources for training and development, and a distinct lack in collective celebration for their achievements. 

The first step to fixing a bias is to recognize it exists. PUMA’s goal was to build awareness about the myriad of ways in which these bias manifests itself- the search result algo being one of them, and to engage an entire nation in changing our collective mindsets about women in sport. 


This was an in-house idea, executed by the PUMA team. 

20 days prior to this campaign, PUMA had launched Harmanpreet Kaur as their latest brand ambassador, through a social experiment. 

The brand posted a cryptic teaser video on their platforms, adding a few facts about their latest cricket ambassador, and challenged the audience to guess who it was. PUMA tracked comments from social media platforms, their website, and collected testimonials from the consumers at PUMA stores. While the facts shared were such that it could have clearly only been Harmanpreet Kaur, 80% of consumers incorrectly guessed a male cricketer. The results were published along with the reveal, challenging the country on their inherent biases, and driving home the powerful message that Cricket is not just a gentleman’s game, but everyone’s game. 

Creative Idea

The idea of going this route, that was not preachy and pedantic, but self-deterministic and engagement driven was intentional. The goal was to get people to recognize their own biases in a way that would shake them up and force them to change the way they think. 


The biggest challenge while undertaking a campaign like this is that while the how of the algorithm was understood, there were no guarantees that even after all of this, it would pick up and change the answer. Given that SEO is a complex mechanism with many different dynamic inputs at any point in time, the team was aware that despite the massive movement that had now begun and continued to gather momentum, it may not be enough to ensure the search results were corrected. Despite that, the team felt that even if as a Step 1, enough conversations started and awareness was built around the issue, that would be one step closer to addressing this very obvious gender disparity. 


The Google search campaign was a follow-up in the same thread. Rather than preaching to people about how they needed to recognise women athletes on the same platform as men, PUMA wanted to bring their attention to a very real problem that existed because of this bias and enlist their support to drive awareness and the need for change. 

WPL Campaign

A detailed study of the process in which the results are determined was undertaken. It broadly revealed the following steps that impact the algo and what could be done to fix it.

  • The algorithm is influenced by users search behaviour over time, and pulls from what we search for and what we post about 
  • Text based platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit and Quora are the primary drivers for where the data is collated from 
  • Thus, to attempt to correct the answers, PUMA needed to use the text-based platforms to feed the correct info to the algo at scale
  • Additionally, the top 100 search results that mention a male cricketers name alongside the words Indian Cricket Team Captain would need to include Harmanpreet’s name

PUMA kickstarted the awareness campaign by showcasing the incorrect results and urging the country to come together and attempt to change it. Since mass volumes were needed to drive change, PUMA enlisted the support of various credible voices such Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Savita Punia, Suresh Wangjam and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who participated and spread the word.

The call to action was simple- people needed to repost on their social handles using the #IndianCricketTeamCaptainHarmanpreetKaur. This would help inform the algo that Harmanpreet Kaur was also the captain of the Indian Cricket Team. 

Parallelly, PUMA also reached out to the websites who showed up in the top 100 results and urged them to support the movement by changing the information on their pages. ANI News, The Bridge, Techno Sports and various other sports websites joined in and ensured that their webpages included Harmanpreet’s name. 


The top 100 sports-related websites, which pop up while mentioning Indian Cricket Team, joined the PUMA movement. The campaign was live on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Top national publications, regional publications, sports media, city media & wires such as ANI News, The Bridge, NDTVSports,  TV9Hindi, Amar Ujala, and many others came together to create awareness about Harmanpreet's cricket captaincy status on Google and used the special hashtag in the articles to make it a trend.

Twitter was flooded with the hashtag, as was LinkedIn. Many credible voices in the industry also spoke up to lend support to the movement. 

Despite this being a zero-spend campaign, the message resonated strongly enough to see an organic reach of 300+ Million 

Shreya Sachdev, Head of Marketing, PUMA India, said, “The achievements of women in sport are no less than any male sport. But there is an issue of gender perception looming large in the sport ecosystem and in general, the kind of visibility that women athletes deserve is never given. As a brand, we want the country to acknowledge this glaring gap and enable a positive change in the mindset. Our campaign to feature Harmanpreet Kaur on Google as Indian Cricket Team Captain is an endeavour to place both male and female athletes on the same stage rightfully and highlight that cricket is everyone’s game. The social drive was a part of our ongoing and long-term commitment towards backing women not just in cricket but across disciplines such as boxing, running, hockey, to even rifle shooting and para-sports.”

Harmanpreet Kaur WPL google search Indian cricket team captain Puma PUMA campaign