With the Indian Super League (ISL) beginning this October, the campaign to promote the property has taken off. What remains to be seen is whether advertisers will take to this first-of-its-kind commercial football league in cricket-crazy India.
The ISL, a joint property of IMG-Reliance and Star India, will kick off from October 12. Sponsored by Hero Motors, the league is made up of eight football franchisees - owned by corporate houses, Bollywood celebs, former Indian cricketers and other businessman - who will compete against each other. The IPL-inspired format is positioned as a parallel to club football played in the western countries. ISL is also a serious attempt to promote the game in India and create a lasting and exciting property.
Unfortunately, most people in cricket-crazy India do not have a football icon and unsurprisingly, most do not even know the name of all the members of the national football team. Sportspersons, fans and other stakeholders, however, hope that the ISL will change things.
The organisers have promised world-class broadcast quality and unparalleled entertainment by roping in popular foreign footballers too. Will advertisers back the game or wait and watch to see how the first edition pans out?
Vidhu Sagar, executive vice-president, Carat Media
Football will excite the advertisers more than hockey, tennis and kabaddi but less than cricket. The revenue, advertising and viewership numbers will be low when compared with the benchmarks set by cricket.
The ISL can improve the overall viewership of football in India which at, present, primarily watches the English Premier League. I am optimistic as finally the market is opening beyond cricket.
Niche advertisers will be looking for premium audiences and will definitely go for it. Categories such as automobiles, telecom, consumer durables and FMCG will be keen on it.
But the organisers will have to ensure that the first few matches generate excitement, so that the spectators are glued to the games. Sports and entertainment need to be given to the consumer together.
Sashi Shankar, CMO, Idea Cellular
Yes, I think football will catch the attention of advertisers, who will be keen on advertising with the Indian Super League. Though not popular in India as it is across the world, the traction around football is growing in this country.
The younger generation is keen on seeking information about it and following it, a trend that advertisers will not have missed.
The organisers, however, need to ensure that the game is promoted well so that it creates excitement in the minds of the people and they are clued to it. All kinds of brands would be interested in partnering with the ISL.
Vinit Karnik, national director, entertainment, sports & live events, GroupM ESP
Football will, most certainly, excite advertisers. We have seen a lot of traction with advertisers on ground and I see the same feeling for it on air also. So I definitely think there will be traction.
I have never seen such traction for any other league (excluding cricket). So I am certain that it will attract advertisers. Automobiles, two-wheelers, four-wheelers, mobile handsets or telecom categories will be very interested.
Any advertiser who wants to reach out to the youth - and these are the categories that drive this age profile - will be excited about the league. Year-on-year soccer properties are delivering better results, more reach, and more numbers. Today's kids are completely clued to the soccer world.
Darshan M, director, Spoment Ventures
I do not think that it will be able to excite the advertisers. The problem with Indian advertisers is that they are not among those who take the leap of faith.
They like to watch and see how it goes and once its proven, tried and tested they get on to it. They are not the trail blazers or the guys who will take the first step, or have the vision and take the decision in advance.
For example, there was a lot of noise about the pro-Kabaddi league but not many advertisers. Similarly, here too there will be a lot of noise but not much advertising.
Though Hero Motors has signed the sponsorship deal, the teams have not got much even after a few months of launch. Generally, there are two kinds of advertisers in India, owner-driven and corporate-driven. The owner-driven companies will take it if they think they will get a bargain and may go out and try.
But in a corporate, where everybody is trying to give a justification to every spend, none will take a risk in a new property. Which is silly, because they will end up paying a premium price for the next season.
We have seen that difference in IPL's first and third years. The biggest question is that no one is able to answer how much it is actually worth.
Dhirendra Singh, associate vice president, head planning, BPN
The FIFA World Cup and the recently concluded Kabaddi League have excited the Indian consumer as well as the advertisers.
The football World Cup was regarded the 'most social event ever' as Indian audiences preferred the mobile phone as the second primary device to follow the matches. The Kabaddi League became one of the most talked-about events on social media on Twitter and Facebook and was supported by Bollywood celebrities as well.
Going by this trend, Indian consumers are accepting sports other than cricket and will surely be glued on to the ISL. Advertisers would certainly like to leverage this opportunity. Looking at the launch ceremony, one gets the feeling of another extravaganza like the IPL and Pro-Kabbadi.
Advertisers from across categories might come on board, but youth brands will have a higher say. But the fate of the event will largely depend on the format of the show, the manner it is packaged in and how entertainingly it is offered to the consumer.