New Delhi: The seventh season of Hero Indian Super League kicks off today and fans are counting down the minutes till their favourite teams descend on the field to fight it out for the much-coveted trophy.
The first match will take place between Kerala Blasters FC and ATK Mohun Bagan at GMC Bambolim stadium. The 2020-21 season features 115 games amongst 11 teams, with the inclusion of Kolkata giants ATK Mohun Bagan and SC East Bengal.
The matches will be telecast and live streamed in 82 territories across the world through five partners across TV and digital platforms.
Official broadcasting partner Star Network will exclusively air ISL matches in India on Star Sports 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 2 SD & HD (English); Star Sports Hindi 1 SD & HD, Star Sports 3, Star Gold 2 (Hindi), Asianet Plus, Asianet Movies (Malayalam); Star Sports Bangla; Star Sports Kannada; Star Sports Tamil; Star Sports Telugu and Star Sports Marathi. Online streaming will be available on Disney+ Hotstar VIP and JioTV.
In addition to international markets, including USA and Australia, fans across continental Europe, Central Asia, Far East, South East Asia, and Asia Pacific can also tune in to enjoy India’s premier football league live.
The organising committee and broadcasters are leaving no stone unturned to reach out to the audiences and connect with them. They began with a massive campaign ‘Let’s Football: Football will be back’ – a firm promise in the age of uncertainties, courtesy Covid2019.
The film showcased the love of the players for the game and how audiences wanted this format of live sports to return. This year, the matches will be played behind closed doors. In order to step up the engagement, the organisers have created dedicated fan zones. They have installed two LED screens that will feature fans from the home team and the away team, thus amplifying the rivalry virtually in a bid to enhance the viewing experience. Along with this enhanced audio for the game, an additional mix of cameras and further access to the players through pre-and-post-match shows will ensure that fans remain close to all the action even beyond the field. A few select followers will also get the opportunity to interact with experts and special guests during the pre and post-match shows.
Carefully targeted content curation in the form of glimpses of practice sessions, player interactions, team interactions and great goals have been deployed to maximise viewer engagement. This content is amplified via social handles of ISL, Star Sports, individual teams, and players. The trend hashtags such as #LetsFootball #isl have already gone viral with people keenly following them.
If we examine Google trends, there has been a steady uptick in search activity around ISL, clearly indicating the love for the game among the Indian audience.
And not just fans, but brands too are showing the league some love. Sponsors for this year include Hero MotoCorp, Byju’s, Dream11, Himalaya Drug, Apollo Tyres, Nivea and others. The Premier League, the wealthiest and most-watched football league in the world, has come onboard as strategic partner. This, perhaps, is the biggest vote of confidence the homegrown ISL could ask for with regards to its prospects as a global player of the future.
The league has grown in leaps and bounds since the time it was launched by Reliance, AIFF, and Star India. It has started attracting international investors. The City Football group plonked down top dollar to acquire a 65 per cent stake in the Mumbai FC in November 2019. Then in mid-August 2020, ISL franchise Hyderabad FC struck a two-year partnership with German Bundesliga giant Borussia Dortmund (BVB), the twelfth richest football team in the world. The Hero ISL has also became the first league from south Asia to be inducted into the prestigious World Leagues Forum, which includes professional football leagues like La Liga, Bundesliga and Premier League, to name a few.
At a business level, ISL is creating the right platform that football needs in order to grow in India. As per BARC reports, Hero ISL 6 had recorded a 51 per cent growth in viewership, with 28 billion minutes consumed, 168 million live match reach, 213 million video views and over 75 million interactions achieved. The brand is a hit across mediums, with the last season being aired on more than 20 TV channels, and clocking 19 million views on Disney+Hotstar.
Since the launch, the organisers have stood for not just creating a league, but expanding the culture of football throughout the country. This has been a predominant theme in ISL’s advertising campaigns through the years. One step at a time, that are big strides nonetheless, it is focusing on creating an ecosystem for the game to thrive in. Initially, the idea was to create a platform, which was followed by bringing in the audiences to sample the game and make sure they stay on. Next came creating equity for the league with long standing partnerships and sponsorships. Earlier, football fever in India was only restricted to big ticket global events.
But the ISL has now become an annual ritual for football lovers and the community is booming with every new instalment. It has created a podium where the domestic players can come forward and shine.
The ISL has always believed in playing offense. With the support of its sponsors and loyal viewers, it is only a matter of time before it drives India past the goal line and puts us well and truly on the world map of football.