The inaugural season of the Indian Super League might still be a couple of months away but with teams announcing their rosters over the last couple of weeks, social networks have been abuzz with discussions on the various teams.
The first season of the Indian Super League (ISL) will consist of 8 franchises from Kolkata, Delhi, Goa, Mumbai, Guwahati, Pune, Bangalore and Kochi. According to data compiled across social networks by Meltwater, Kerala Blasters lead the popularity charts thus far with more than 22,405 mentions, followed by Kolkata’s Atletico de Kolkata with 18,064 mentions. This is not surprising since both teams have been the most hyped clubs in the league due to Kerala boasting Sachin Tendulkar as a co-owner and Kolkata’s association with Spanish football club Atletico Madrid as well as the presence of Saurav Ganguly as a co-owner.
“The ISL is certainly gaining traction. The involvement of Bollywood, gives a steady platform for building fan bases and social presence. The profile of owners ranging from Sachin Tendulkar to Salman Khan, provides a unique vantage point for The ISL, if they can successfully leverage the popularity of cricket and Bollywood, has a potential recipe for long term success and social brand building,” said Zubair Timol, Area Director, India Middle East & Africa, Meltwater.
In fact, the organizers of the ISL seem to have taken the success of the IPL as their blueprint. However, as we with the amount of outrage directed on social media towards Sony Six’s Café Rio during the FIFA World Cup, football supporters are usually immune and, even, hostile to attempts at over glamorizing the sport. It will be interesting to see how the broadcast partner, Star Sports and the organizers maintain this balance.
Meanwhile, some of the franchises have already started running campaigns on Twitter and other social media to add to the buzz. One of the most interesting was done by Team Goa which asked audiences to suggest a name for the club. This crowdsourcing project requested supporters to send in their suggestions via email. Similarly, Delhi Dynamos FC launched their Twitter campaign a couple of weeks back with the hashtag “#thokdenge” , which gave them an early mover advantage when it came to social media buzz.
“Fan engagement will largely dependent on a few clear choices. Which social platform works best for their dedicated audience? The content created and pushed across these platforms and ultimately, the success of the team and their star players. Twitter and Instagram are obvious front runners for building fan engagement and some of the approaches taken by established European clubs such as Real Madrid and Manchester United, are a good examples of keeping your fans entertained on and off the pitch,” said Timol.
In fact, with the presence of well-known foreign players like Robert Pires, Luis Garcia, etc. and tie-ups with big clubs abroad, the ISL teams can learn a lot from how social media campaigns are run by their counterparts in other countries. Some basic things that can be done on a regular basis, which are carried out by the likes of Liverpool FC, FC Barcelona, etc. are Twitter/Facebook interviews with players, exclusive content, etc. Timol opines a strategic approach will ensure fan engagement and ownership towards the franchise, thereby increasing their social currency and appeal.
Meanwhile, brands, apart from Hero, which was announced as the lead sponsor, have still to show interest in the various teams. One media planner said that it was a bit early to see any interest by marketers in the property though this would change as we approached closer to the kick off date of October 11. With football increasing in popularity in recent years as witnessed with the recent World Cup and the frenzy around local leagues like the Premier League and La Liga, brands will certainly want to be active in what could be a lucrative product.
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“One only needs to look at the monumental social media coverage the FIFA World Cup garnered, with a sizeable chunk of tweets coming from India, to give an indication of our appetite for the sport. With the addition of star players and exciting games, the opportunity for brands and sponsors to use soccer as a vehicle for brand building remains untapped,” said Timol.
Hero’s hashtag --- #heroISL, meanwhile saw a 33% rise in popularity on social media after the announcement. However, lack of activity means this interest has fizzled out in recent weeks, though with more targeted campaigns closer to the start of the tournament might cause a change once again.