The Indian Super League (ISL) is on the verge of completing its ten-year run as India’s premier football tournament. Whether or not the league has been successful and is going in the right direction is a different discussion for a different time, however, as in this piece I would like to highlight certain brands that have extended their association to the league and have been its vital partners.
Some of these brands are pertinent to the Indian football scene because of the length of their association and the support they have provided to the ISL, while some other brands are essential because of the partnership’s effect on the league.
Hero MotoCorp, the largest two-wheeler manufacturing company in the world and based in New Delhi, India, is the current title sponsor of the ISL. Its association with the league dates back to the inaugural season of the competition.
When the company initially signed on as an ISL partner, the deal was reportedly valued at ₹51 crore for three years. The two parties then renewed their partnership for three more years in 2017, and the deal’s value more than tripled, reportedly valued at a staggering ₹160 crore.
“[The] ISL has proven a success in terms of spectatorship (in-stadia attendance) and followership (TV viewership, social media engagement). As part of our strategy on football, we have tried not only to create a domestic football league to promote the sport but also attempt to increase the width of the games available to viewers. Hero’s commitment affirms the belief (we have) that the league is primed for a revenue upswing as well,” said Sanjay Gupta, the managing director of Star India at the time of renewal in 2017.
Hero has always been at the forefront of Indian football. The company is also the title sponsor of the I-League, I-League 2, and the Indian Women’s League. One could easily argue that Hero has been the most significant partner of not only the ISL but Indian football as a whole.
The footballs used during ISL matches often catch the eye of the audience. Therefore, the deal between Nivia and the ISL is quite significant.
Nivia joined on as the official ball sponsor of the ISL before its 2018-19 season and has been associated with the league ever since. The deal signed between the two parties was initially for three years, when Nivia supplied the “Ashtang” balls to the league.
“We are delighted to introduce FIFA Pro certified match balls Nivia Ashtang for Hero Indian Super League. Ashtang has been produced by Nivia with the highest standards and newest technology to maximise performance”, said an ISL spokesperson at the time of the deal with Nivia.
The English Premier League signed on as the strategic partner of the ISL in 2014. Like Hero MotoCorp, the Premier League has been associated with the ISL ever since its inaugural season. The latest renewal of the deal between the two parties took place in 2020.
Most notably, the Premier League’s association with the ISL has seen the development of the Reliance Next Generation Cup — a youth league in India. In 2023, the eight teams that took part in the tournament included the likes of ATK Mohun Bagan (now Mohun Bagan Super Giant) and Bengaluru FC, the finalists of the 2022-23 ISL season. The tournament also hosted some big names in English football, like Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United. Wolves came out victorious in the 2023 Reliance Next Generation Cup.
The Bonn-headquartered German courier service served as an official partner of the ISL until the 2020-21 season. The company initially joined hands with the league in 2015 as its Official Logistics and Timing Partner.
During its six-year partnership with the ISL, DHL delivered match balls to the pitch before the start of games. The match ball delivery during the 2020-21 season saw the use of drones and remote-controlled cars. Furthermore, DHL also presented the “DHL Winning Pass” award for the best assist during a game.
Considering the trends in society today, one could bet on the success of Virtua’s partnership with the ISL. Virtua is a brand that uses blockchain technology to allow collectors to display their collectables using virtual reality and to observe collectables put up by others.
Virtua was announced as the Official Digital Collectables Partner of the ISL during the 2021-22 ISL season. The two parties have just completed three years of the partnership, wherein Virtua has designed and provided the opportunity to ISL fans to access these collectables.
The company provides a range of collectables, like player trading cards, the best moments from an ISL season, and much more.