As the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) gets ready to kick off later this month with two new teams and an extended season, the organisers, team franchisees and broadcaster Star Sports Network are betting on increased advertiser participation. Expectations have been fuelled by the viewership numbers notched up by the recently concluded FIFA Under-17 World Cup, which took place in India and; the overall increase in interest in the sport across the country. The U-17 matches were seen by 47 million people according to Broadcaster Audience Research Council of India (BARC) data provided by the tournament’s broadcaster in India, Sony Pictures Network (SPN). The BARC data is for all-India urban market with viewers above two years of age and includes only the paid sports channels. The campaign for ISL-4 uses celebrity owners MS Dhoni, Abhishek Bachchan (left), Sachin Tendulkar (right) to endorse the game The ISL has already launched its campaign for the tournament that starts on November 17. It has roped in team owners such as Sachin Tendulkar, MS Dhoni, Abhishek Bachchan to add star power to the tournament and generate a buzz online about the line-up of players and teams. A diverse and passionate fan base, not necessarily market size, drives sponsors and brands into football says Euromonitor in a report titled Indian Super League: Outlook and opportunities. Another factor driving the enthusiasm for ISL is that during the U-17 tournament, for the first time ever, viewer interest was sustained even when the national team was not on the field. Even though the Indian team did not make it beyond the elimination matches, the tournament rated well, with the bulk of the viewership coming from regions like West Bengal, Kerala and North East. The network had provided regional audio feeds in the form of Hindi and Bengali audio, and these constituted 40 per cent of the total viewership. Interestingly, 45 per cent of the total 47 million viewers were women. This means that the tournament registered more female viewers than most other sports tournaments broadcast in the country. The other tournament to attract more than 40 per cent female viewership has been the Indian Premier League (IPL). Rajesh Kaul, president, Sports and Distribution Business, Sony Pictures Networks India says, “Our efforts towards leveraging and enhancing the popularity of the FIFA U-17 World Cup have yielded excellent results and we hope that this will be a pivotal point for the rise of football in India.” Advertisers and sponsors focusing on non-cricket sports hope that the interest transfers to the ISL that has added two new teams, Bengaluru and Jamshedpur and is looking to cash in on the momentum created by the U-17 tournament.
The ISL has Hero as the title sponsor and DHL and Maruti Suzuki as associate sponsors.The U-17 world cup managed to get on-ground and on-air sponsors across the board. While Hero MotoCorp and LIC led the team of on-air advertisers, on-ground, the tournament partnered six companies. Called national supporters, these included Bank of Baroda, Hero Moto Corp, Coal India, NTPC, Byju’s and Dalmia Cement. The event also had the support of FIFA’s global commercial partners, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Wanda, GAZPROM, Hyundai, Qatar Airways and Visa. On an average, planners estimate the ad rates averaged below one lakh rupees for ten seconds. Hero ISL, which is now an established property, will be hoping that it can push up the rates for the 2017 season. The U-17 FIFA World Cup also saw healthy attendance in the stadii. The final which took place at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata had 67,000 attendees. The ISL and its sponsors would hope that the upcoming matches cross these numbers by a fair margin.