Can HIL deliver on viewership, sponsorship in its fifth edition?

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The fifth season of the Hockey India League (HIL) which commences during the weekend presents a great opportunity for television coverage and the sponsors to make the most with Indian hockey doing well in recent days.

Indian men’s team finished at the second spot during the Champions Trophy but they had a mediocre performance during the Rio Olympics last year. But the icing on the cake as 2016 came to a close was the Indian juniors winning the World Cup under-21 title, beating Australia on way to the finals. If the recent performance of the seniors as well as the junior hockey team is an indication, it should help ignite the passion for the sport among the people.

The league presents some of the best hockey talent around the world whose skills will be on display during the five-week tournament where six teams will be battling for the top honours.

During the auction process in November last year, all teams had to invest in 20 players, with maximum of eight players from overseas, with a $725,000 cap on the purse. Having retained their squad for a significantly lesser amount, Ranchi Rays and Jaypee Punjab Warriors had a larger purse available for the bidding process.

The success of the auction, return of stars like Gurbaj Singh and the interest in the league shown by marquee names among players around the world, has now set the expectation that HIL will deliver returns for its team owners.

Rising sports business

A report by industry association, CII and consulting company KPMG had put the sports sponsorship market at Rs. 5190 crore ($763 million) during 2015. According to the report, ISL doubled its central sponsorship revenue during the second edition in 2015 to Rs. 100 crore ($15 million). Pro Kabaddi League had also helped broadcaster and investor, Star India, earn nearly Rs. 45 crore ($6.6 million) in sponsorship revenues.

The name of HIL does not appear in the same breath, when talking of success of several sporting leagues in India.

With government-owned company Coal India as a sponsors, iconic name like Mahendra Singh Dhoni among the team owners and passion that it ignites as the national sport, there is little doubt about the potential.

As HIL begins its fifth year, it has to live up to the promise and deliver on viewership and revenues. If it succeeds, it will be great news for the Bengaluru franchise joining the league from 2018.

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