Ranbir Kapoor's Mumbai City FC targets 20-25% revenue growth from ISL 2017

MUMBAI: With the new season of the Indian Super League (ISL) scheduled to kick off on 17 November, the Ranbir Kapoor-owned Mumbai City FC franchise is targeting revenue growth of 20-25 per cent.

Talking to TelevisionPost.com Mumbai City FC CEO Indranil Das Blah said, “We are expecting a 20-25 per cent revenue growth this year because the feedback from the sponsorship market has been very positive. We have closed all the six spots on the jersey. It is the same number as last time. Most of the deals are for one year.”

That he said is because while ideally, you would want long-term deals this season will be different. That is because matches will be played from Thursday-Sunday as opposed to every day. Blah feels that this is the way to go given that international soccer leagues follow a similar pattern where the focus is on weekend games to maximise viewership.

“The sponsorship market will see how this season pans out before taking longer-term bets. If the league does well then the price point will increase. We didn’t want to limit ourselves to a certain amount. So we decided to see how this year goes. Viewership will grow. For sustainability, the league needs to be longer and have prime time slots.”

He noted that breakeven plans are on track and could happen before nine years of the first season launch. “Hopefully by the eighth year, we would have broken even.”

The licensing and merchandising area is still very nascent and the market is really small. Ticket prices will not be increased. It should more or less be the same. “The aim is to see that the club is accessible. We want to increase the fan base”. Also, the Andheri Sports Complex is small.

He noted that brand recall is there for Mumbai City FC. Now the aim is to take it to the next level. “We are very happy with the brand recognition that Mumbai city has got. It is just a three-year-long league. In three years we have achieved a significant amount of success. So as you go to more youngsters today they will know about Mumbai City FC. Now we are focusing on growing consumption of the Mumbai City brand. It could be through watching games, buying jerseys, TV viewership.

“We make sure that we do enough grassroots initiatives. We make sure that we go out to enough schools and colleges. We make sure that our players are more involved in marketing campaigns. Bottom-up initiatives are important to build and strengthen the brand. Soccer is seen as an aspirational, niche sport in the Metros. Our aim is to break this barrier, reach new markets and get out the message that Mumbai City is a club for the people of Mumbai. Therefore we focus on places like Dharavi, Mulund, Navi Mumbai for grassroots activities. A lot of focus is given to suburbs and not the affluent areas of Mumbai. The brand needs to stand for the city of Mumbai and not be aspirational.”

A lot of content is created for digital. Marketing is concentrated on digital as this is a function of cost. That is because of traditional media like print, outdoor are prohibitively expensive. “We need to spend the most on digital which is where the core of our TG is anyway.“

He also noted that the ISL not trying to compete with international leagues like the EPL. “Our premise for supporters has always been that we are not asking you to not support international clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea. You can support them but also support your own home club. That has really been our premise. It is not one or the other. Today with many leagues being aired the football market has grown. We are tapping into that market. We are tapping into that base that already exists. We are not telling people that the ISL is better than the EPL. We are playing into the emotional connect that comes from supporting your own club. You may feel strongly about Manchester United but there is enough space in the market or in your heart to also follow a Mumbai City FC.”

He also said that the broadcaster Star India helps where it can like creating heroes out of players. That is Mumbai City FC’s plans today instead of focussing on big names. “We haven’t gone down the marquee route but we have a couple of really good players like Balwant Singh. It is a good blend of experience and young players. In the first couple of years, you needed big names to attract eyeballs. Now that people are aware of the ISL and Mumbai City FC it is better to build local heroes. That is the route that we are taking. It is also cost-effective. The coach is really happy with the team and that is all that matters. It is up to them to deliver.”

In terms of Futsal, he noted that it is a different sport. He opines that it is first important to develop a football market. “In cricket, the IPL is a format that goes with ODIs and Test cricket. But football and Futsal are almost two separate sports altogether. The markets are different. I think that India first needs to develop as a football market and then develop as a Futsal market. Having said that if you can create a property and market and package it well in the way that Star has done with the PKL or the ISL then I don’t see why Futsal will not have a bright, interesting future ahead of it. But I think that it is slightly premature to start talking about Futsal market for now.”

He added that the Under-17 soccer World Cup which took place in the country gave a big boost to the sport in the country. “People might say it was a blip. But it reached a lot of people who were not aware of the sport. They started to talk about it. The Prime Minister spoke about it. It was all over the newspapers. It was a significant moment in Indian football. Now hopefully with the ISL, we can now build on that momentum.”

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