Hero Indian Super League (ISL), the domestic football championship, has captured the imagination of sports fans across India in its inaugural year, marking the birth of India as a footballing nation. Hero ISL, the brainchild of IMG-Reliance and Star India, took the nation by storm, recording unprecedented reach on TV, in-stadia and digital.
Unmatched in its sheer scale and vision and encapsulating world-class production values, the league helped football strike a chord with fans in a way never seen before in India. An aggregate of 429 million viewers (TAM data: CS4+ extrapolated to the universe using a standard conversion factor) tuned in from across the nation to watch the Hero ISL live on their televisions screens, making it the second-most-watched sport in the country, after cricket. The league cut across demographic boundaries and captured the imagination of a diverse fan-base, with women and children accounting for 57% of the 429 million viewers.
The League’s final played between Atlético de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters, on December 20, 2014, was watched by 57 million viewers, 2.4X of the reach of 2014 FIFA World Cup final. The final, with an average TVT of 1418, among M 15+ ABC, registered as the highest-rated match of the tournament, 11% higher than the opening match of the tournament.
Talking about the league’s success, Nita M Ambani, Chairperson, IMG-Reliance, said, “The success of Hero ISL is a realisation of a dream of a billion plus Indians to experience and embrace the beauty of football. ‘The beautiful game’ has successfully captured the imagination of people of India and we have experienced the joy of watching the birth of a footballing nation. Hero ISL has been geared towards one overarching objective – to develop football across the country in a systematic and holistic manner, and its success will spur the development of Indian football. I extend my gratitude to the people of India for their love and support.”
In a move unprecedented in sports broadcasting in India, the Hero ISL was telecast live on eight channels in five different languages, across the Star India network. The league was also aired on starsports.com.
“Launched with the aim of helping football take root among the country’s masses, the Hero ISL was backed by an aggressive broadcast plan, to bring an unparalleled football experience to viewers. Our intent was to awaken the passion of football and create the birth of a footballing nation. The resultant success of the Hero ISL justifies it as the right platform for tapping the passion for the sport that exists in India. As we gear for a bigger and better second edition, I would like to thank our partners IMG- Reliance, AIFF, all the club owners and more than 400 million fans for making this dream a reality,” said Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India.
The following of Hero ISL was also highlighted by the sheer number of fans who turned up to watch the matches live. Over 1.5 million fans thronged to stadiums across the country, with attendance averaging about 26,000 fans per match. This has made Hero ISL the most-attended league in Asia, and among the top leagues in the world. In its short history, it has already become the fourth-most-attended football league in the world, in terms of average attendance, and now only trails Germany’s Bundesliga, the Barclays Premier League and the La Liga.
The finals at DY Patil Stadium, Mumbai, had about 37,000 fans witness the crowning of the 1st Champion of Hero ISL.
Hero ISL scored big on the digital front too. Starsports.com, the online broadcaster of the tournament, broke many digital records over the duration of the tournament. More than 32 million visits were recorded during the tournament. Starsports.com has created the largest football event ever on digital, in India, surpassing the online viewership for the FIFA World Cup 2014. Across web, mobile and apps, starsports.com recorded over 17 million online video views through the course of the tournament. The final match recorded 1.6 million online visits.
The popularity of the Hero ISL has also been evident across social media platforms. Globally, Hero ISL has created 2.2 million conversations on social media, with more than 275,000 unique authors (twice as many unique authors as 2014 FIFA World Cup in India), generating 11 billion potential impressions.