#ISL2019: Sandeep Juneja, DHL Express India on why the association with ISL works…

Sandeep Juneja
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In conversation with Sandeep Juneja from DHL Express India, decoding the brand’s association with ISL.

DHL Express, the international express service provider announced the renewal of its association with the Hero Indian Super League (ISL), for the 5th consecutive year. As a part of this association,

Leveraging the league’s dynamic reach across age groups, DHL Express will deliver the match ball for all 95 games in its role as the Official Match Ball partner. Additionally, the ‘DHL Winning Pass’ will be awarded to the best player supporting the winning goal for each match. An overall winner will also be identified at the end of the season

Social Samosa gets in conversation with Sandeep Juneja, Vice President, Sales, and Marketing, DHL Express India understanding the brand’s objective from the association, the impact of its long-standing partnership with ISL, and sports marketing trends that shape up the industry.

Excerpts below:

Football has been evolving with over 500 Mn users watching the sport in India, what are your thoughts on the rise of Football in India?

With several efforts undertaken to promote football in India at the grass-root level, the sport has witnessed a steady growth in the country. ISL has played a key role in professionalizing football in India, making it more appealing to fans and nurturing promising talent from India alongside international footballers. In addition to this, India as the host nation of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup 2017 as well as the participation of the senior national team in the AFC Asian Cup 2019 put the spotlight on the sport in India. All of the above has led to the development of infrastructure and the availability of coaching talent that is critical to the growth of football.

With a substantial increase in brands investing in supporting the growth of football in India not just through league sponsorships but also through coaching academies, there is an entire ecosystem that is propelling the growth and popularity of the sport in India. Better broadcast quality, higher incentives for Indian players, the inclusion of experienced foreign players in ISL, initiatives by the AIFF and support by corporate heavyweights have created a solid foundation for the sport in India.

With Manchester City eyeing an investment in Indian Super League Clubs and global talent taking interest in the league, what is the growth trajectory you would predict for ISL in the coming years?

Manchester City’s interest in investing in India showcases the impact that ISL has made in raising the country’s profile in the global football circuit.

With high profile signings, significant brand sponsorships and world-class football content, the league has played a huge role in the phenomenal growth of football in India. It has attracted the attention of the global football community in a way that has never been seen before.

ISL is venturing into the 6th year, and the league has been attracting Brand interests.  Please take us through DHL’s Journey with ISL, Key milestones and how the association has matured over the years.

In 2015, we partnered with the ISL for the first time as the League’s Official Logistics and Timing Partner. Over five consecutive years, our association has grown from strength to strength, now as an ‘Associate Sponsor’ of ISL.

ISL has given us an ROI of more than 30X, taking into consideration, brand visibility, uplift, affinity, and other business matrices.

Our partnership with ISL is based on multiple factors:

  • With football being the world’s most popular sport, DHL globally has existing associations with Manchester United, FC Bayern Munich, Copa Libertadores, Leicester City (England), Chinese Football Association Super League (CSL), and Football Association of Ireland.
  • ISL is India’s top football league and helps us engage with our exact target audience that is the young, dynamic and ambitious fans based in metros, Tier I, II and III towns.
  • The league provides a platform for young Indian talent to pursue their international football careers, which is in line with our business that enables young Indian entrepreneurs to grow their businesses internationally.

ISL 2019 saw a great spike in the opening week, the total number of impressions increased by 77% and the TVR rose by 95%. Though ISL opens up avenues of Brand visibility and reach, the league’s USP rides on the optimism as a Brand Value. In your opinion, what are the other factors that are attracting Brands towards ISL?

While cricket remains the most popular sport in the country, India’s sporting culture has undergone a significant change.

We are no longer a one-sport nation thereby giving brands the opportunity to reach out to their target groups through other growing sports like football.

Given that cricket-based sponsorships are already cluttered with numerous brands, marketers are realizing the opportunity in leveraging new but rapidly growing sporting properties across games. It also allows brands to be a part of the growth story of football and football talent in India, as well as engage with a more focused target audience right from this growth stage. It gives them a chance to enjoy more visibility and thereby higher brand recall amongst the target group.

Also read: #ISL2019: How DHL Express India leveraged Hero ISL to enhance their brand promise

How has DHL leveraged this association with ISL over the years? How would you define the Brand’s growth trajectory viz a viz ISL? 

Our association with ISL is a meaningful partnership that communicates our expertise and values to our target audience. Given our global expertise in time-definite deliveries, we deliver the match ball for all matches of the League. We also believe that similar to our business, football as a sport is based on teamwork and not a particular individual.

Hence, each ISL match, as well as the overall season, has the ‘DHL Winning Pass’ Award that is given to the players that provide the highest assists in scoring goals. Another activation that we undertook in Season 5 was the delivery of four significant items for the finale, which included the trophy, match ball, player jerseys and wish boards for fans and players. These initiatives ensure that we build the right recall for our brand that resonates with the nature of our business amongst the target audience.

With the phenomenal growth of ISL, we also witness significant growth in ROI each season. We receive significant brand exposure in the form of TVCs, in-stadia branding, social media activations, promotions, fleet branding and much more through the season. Through this partnership, we have created visibility amongst ISL’s 200 million+ TV viewers and in-stadia audience.

As per the Post-Wave Market Research Report Nielsen Sports, we witnessed a phenomenal uplift across metrics through our activations at the Season 5 finale.

The trophy delivery at the finale garnered a +13% Avg. Uplift and was seen by 56% of the respondents whereas the jersey delivery garnered a +16% Avg. Uplift and noticed by 44% of the respondents. The wish board delivery saw a +30% Avg.

Uplift and was seen by 40% of the respondents, and the match ball delivery recorded a +20% Avg. Uplift and was recalled by 44% of the respondents.

ISL offers a suite of options through the line engagement opportunities for Brands. In your opinion, how can Brands maximize the bang for the buck from these opportunities?

The magic, of course, is in how the brand activates the property. Over the years, we have leveraged every available asset in our association to drive our brand promise of “Excellence. Simply Delivered”. We deliver the match essentials.

We co-brand our vehicles in key markets, take all our employees for a match during the season, run contests for our fans, customers and employees in key matches, and give them money can’t buy experience through ISL. We run activations in-stadia, online and in our offices, delivering moments that stay in our customers’ minds for a lifetime.

Also read: #ISL2019: How Marketers and Advertisers look at the opportune growth of Football and Indian Super League

With ISL 6, the association of brands is not just restricted to TV campaigns. There is a growing focus on creating non-live content around ISL as fans are immersed in facets beyond just the football match. Fan engagement activities like meet and greet, behind the scenes, contests et al are important for the pre and post-show involvement. What new dimension is this adding up in the marketer’s landscape?

While TV campaigns help reach out to ISL viewers, they are an expensive proposition and allow for one way communication only. This restricts the brand’s ability to engage with the target audience.

However, activations like exclusive fan meet and greet sessions with sporting talent, on-ground activations, service/product plugins at the match venues, etc. help brands interact closely with the consumers and build a stronger connect. Giving the target audience a unique experience helps foster higher brand recall amongst them.

ISL is touted to possess extremely high stickiness amongst its viewers enjoying a loyal viewer base. What are your thoughts on it becoming the next big thing and going massy in the arena of sports in India which is still a cricket dominated land?

ISL has played a crucial role in the growth of football in India. With its robust structure in place, the support of big brands, the involvement of experienced international players and coaches alongside promising domestic talent, and a strong broadcaster, it has helped India transition from a football viewing nation to a football playing nation as well. In spite of cricket being the country’s most popular sport, ISL has immensely contributed to making football appealing in India by bringing world-class football standards to India.

With Bollywood celebrities promoting the League and owning stakes in different teams as well, visibility for ISL has increased tremendously. Its rising popularity is seen not just in metros but in Tier 2 and 3 markets as well.

With its official status as the country’s top league and a berth in the Asian Champions League, ISL is set to get more lucrative. The League also has plans to tap into international audiences by going to other markets such as the Middle East. Given that ISL caters to a younger and savvy target audience, it is a great opportunity for brands to catch their consumers young in a sport that is still growing and that provides the breathing space for partners to enjoy visibility as opposed to an already cluttered space like cricket.


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