ISL clubs struggling with sponsorship sales


The clock is ticking fast. With less a mere two days for the Indian Super League Season 4 to kick-start a majority of teams do not have – or, are not in a position to announce – a title sponsor. Mumbai FC is one club sitting pretty having “closed all their sponsorship deals, while the title of at least three of the other nine teams is retained by the club owners.

Rest are “in talks”, “awaiting closures” or in “the final stages of making announcements”.

The 10-team league kicks off on  Friday, November 17, with the Kerala Blasters FC hosting ATK. The defending champions, rechristened from the Atletico de Kolkata to ATK, are without a major sponsors’ logo to show on their website.

Mumbai FC, who start their Season 4 on Sunday against FC Goa, are one big exception. Title sponsors Ace Group continue their association with the club, co-owned by Ranbir Kapoor, for the third successive year. All the other six slots too are close, says a happy CEO Indranil Das Blah.  “This season by far has been best for us in terms of sponsorship sales. We have registered 35-40% increase in the sponsorship revenues,” Blah told “All sponsorship opportunities on the Mumbai FC jersey are sold out. Come Sunday (the opening match day for the team), you will see all (sponsorship) spots on the team jersey full.”

However, the story is different, for the most others. Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC and Goa FC club ownerships are backing the clubs with title sponsorship association with their own business entities. Jamshedpur FC is backed by Tata Steel (title sponsors), Tata Trust and Tata Motors. Bengaluru FC owners JSW have yet again retained the title, with Puma being the main associate. FC Goa is backed by Deltin Hotels, Goa. The hospitality group sponsorship brand owner Jaidev Mukund Modi is a 65% stakeholder in the club.

 Delhi Dynamos are still not in a position to name a sponsor. “There are several interests. We are expecting closures in the next couple of days,” said a club official on condition of anonymity. Delhi Dynamos last season too were without a title as the club promoters GMS Inc. had used their own logo as team’s title sponsors.

North East United too is without a title sponsor so far. “We are unveiling our jersey on Tuesday with a number of sponsors logos,” a club spokesperson told McDowell’s No. 1 is extending the relationship with the club as one of the co-sponsors. There is an Assam-based cement company and a private sector national-level insurance company on board. However, no confirmation or denial of the title sponsorship deal yet.

FC Pune City claims to have “sold” four of the six sponsorship property and exude confidence in netting the title in the next two days. “We had six sponsorship slots. Four are closed. There are two more to go (including the title). We are very close to signing the title. There are a few factors to look into, which we are addressing. An announcement will be made in the next couple of days. We are glad for the fact that our sponsorship sales have been much better than the previous seasons,” said Gaurav Modwel, CEO, FC Pune City.

Chennaiyin FC have their existing relationship with Lloyd to show as a co-sponsor. But there is no news of title.

The delayed deals leave the club owners under pressure, giving better bargaining powers to the brands. The scenario for a majority of clubs appears grim even after three successful seasons of India’s premier football league. The longer season with two extra teams will demand more expenses. The discouraging response from brands may leave clubs further bleeding with an even longer wait for a break even.