Football in India has grown by leaps and bounds but investment isn't matching up to the reality of the Indian Super League's popularity, says Delhi Dynamos Football Club's (DDFC) marketing head Priyanshu Pande.
According to a report by Livemint, India's very own football league, Indian Super League (ISL) is the second most watched league and is expected to generate Rs400 crore in advertising, sponsorships and gate receipts in 2017/18 season, a 25% jump over previous season. While another report by BARC states that the awareness of ISL is 35%.
ISL further stated that its finals last year was the highest reach televised sports event of the year with 41 million viewers registering over three times impressions vis-a-vis last season’s finale. ISL on Hotstar and Jio recorded 7.5 times the total watch time vs Season Two final.
The Drum spoke with ISL team Delhi Dynamos Football Club's (DDFC) marketing head Priyanshu Pande to know whether sponsorship still remains a difficult area for ISL clubs.
He says: "Sports sponsorship in India is evolving. Cricket by a long shot remains the preferred choice of marketers to associate their brands with. However, the ticket size of the investment in cricket is quite high which for a lot of brands gets difficult to cough up. In this regard, ISL is a great option for brands as the sponsorship investment vis-à-vis cricket is quite low."
"What is a struggle for ISL sponsorship though is extracting the right value for its offering. Most times, the sponsorship investments are grossly undervalued by the brands as they consider ISL as a 'still developing' league. Also, a lot of the brands compare ISL’s TV viewership with that of cricket which is not exactly an apple to apple comparison."
As to why more brands should get involved and what value ISL provides, he believes that in the future football will capture the hearts of more of India's youth.
"Football is the second most popular sports in India after cricket. And the sport is only growing. Today you will see more youngsters picking up football instead of a cricket bat. More so in the metros. This for me is the biggest sponsorship pull for ISL. The younger generation is more likely to associate with football than with cricket. With ISL’s mandate for the clubs to works extensively at grassroots level to grow the sport, the exposure for the sponsoring brands is not just limited to the league," he says.
"It also trickles down to the club’s initiatives at grassroots. At Dynamos, we ensure that the sponsor gets the bang for every sponsorship buck. During league time, the sponsor gets visibility on TV and other ATL platforms. During the non-league season, the sponsoring brands get the opportunity to connect with kids (and their parents) that come in contact of DDFC during all our grassroot initiatives through meaningful activation."
According to Pande, for Dynamos creating fans defines its marketing road map. Dynamos has also partnered with Doha-based Aspire Academy as its technical Partner. As part of the agreement, Aspire Academy will send coaches, talent scouts and analysts to Delhi, to help develop existing talent and promote practice in training, development and scouting for the club's teams and different youth development programmes, including DDFC Soccer Schools, Development Centre and Residential Academy.
Pande says: "Our marketing emphasis is on creating a robust grassroots system to reach out to young kids through our school programs, football festivals, junior leagues, soccer schools etc. We need to catch these kids young and then watch them grow under DDFC’s supervision. The task is to take these kids from being aware about DDFC to becoming DDFC fans and then finally converting them to hardcore DDFC loyalist through constant, meaningful engagements. The payoff for this will not be immediate, but it will ensure the club’s legacy in the long run."
We have seen globally that clubs are leveraging digital in a massive way to gain more fan engagement. As to how Delhi Dynamos engages its fans, Pande says: "Digital is the present and future of marketing, especially for the young brands. The second screen as we used to call the mobile phones is no longer the second screen. In fact it has conveniently replaced TV as the first screen. The entire world, more so the millennials spends more time on digital platforms than on any other medium these days and that is the market we are tapping into, slowly but steadily. We got on board a new fan engagement partner in Rooter this season to keep the supporters more engrossed with the club."
"Social Media is our biggest marketing asset with close to One million followers. You need to occupy mindshare of your fans by constantly conversing with them. These conversations happen in multiple ways- social media contests, team meet and greets, promotions etc. We have a dedicated content team that gives fans a constant sneak-peak into the off the pitch life of a football club."