Like the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Indian Super League (ISL) is also being played behind closed doors -- but this is not going down well with the advertisers.
The seventh edition of the football league, which started from November 20, is seeing the COVID-19 impact as media experts say that ISL may not do the same business as last year in terms of sponsorship revenues.
ISL is likely to end up earning around Rs 70 crore from brand sponsorships this year as against Rs 110 crore last year, according to Sandeep Goyal, chairman of marketing and communications agency Mogae Media.
Goyal said that till now Hero MotoCorp, which has bagged the title sponsorship rights, has invested around Rs 40 crore, down from the Rs 50-60 crore that it had invested last year.
"Along with Hero, brands like DHL have spent around Rs 9 crore to acquire the rights of associate sponsors. Official partners of ISL like Apollo Tyres and Byju's have spent in the range of Rs 4-5 crore. Overall, brands have spent around Rs 60 crore so far," he said.
Media planners noted that matches being played behind closed doors will impact brand promotions, which is why the response of advertisers is subdued this year.
So, does this mean advertisers will spend less for on-air advertising?
Goyal said that the response of the advertisers for ISL has been low so far. "IPL has taken up most revenues and the Australia cricket series will take away the balance." He added that so far, 35 percent of ad inventory has been sold for ISL.
In India, cricket takes up around 90 percent of advertising revenues. Plus, this year IPL happening during the festive period has resulted in most brands spending on the cricket league.
While the response of brands is subdued, experts said that in terms of viewership ISL is likely to see growth this year.
The league last year saw a significant jump in viewership.
According to Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC), TV viewership saw over 50 percent growth during the sixth season of ISL with the league registering 28 billion viewing minutes on Star Network channels, which is the official broadcaster of the ISL.
In addition, video streaming platform Disney+Hotstar saw 58 percent growth in terms of viewership as the league recorded 19 million digital viewership last year as compared to 12 million in 2018.
Experts pointed out that what may work to ISL's benefit is the limited number of live sports happening due to the coronavirus scare.
Plus, Star India is leaving no stone unturned to keep viewers engaged. Like IPL, Star India has come up with a virtual fan wall for ISL.
Whether ISL will see growth in terms of ad revenues and viewership, only time will tell. But what makes the league special this year is the fact that the football league marks the resumption of live sports in India.
The entire season of ISL is being played behind closed doors in Goa.