AN ADVERTISEMENT THAT sparked controversy has been taken down by Indian Super League from all its social media platforms.
The ad, which featured Sourav Ganguly, was meant to create hype for the ISL 2020-21 season among Bengali-speaking fans, but did quite the opposite. The moment the video went up, Mohun Bagan fans raised objections about its content; especially the part where a Mohun Bagan jersey is dipped into a washing machine along with an ATK jersey. The narration of the ad also spoke of a "six year old emotion" that fans found to be offensive, since Mohun Bagan, which will debut in ISL this season with the brand name ATK Mohun Bagan FC, carry a record of 131 years.
The Mariners claimed that the ad diluted the club's heritage through a misleading branding message. Just days before this ad premiered, it was revealed that the team would wear 3 stars on the left sleeve of their jersey under the ISL logo, with the words 'Champions 2019-20' written under them. This branding, along with the advertisement, created an impression that this team was a continuation of ATK FC, which directly contradicts the official club registration and licensing which shows that ATK Mohun Bagan FC are using the credentials of Mohun Bagan, while ATK's affiliation has been dissolved.
The Mohun Bagan fanbase perceived the mishandling of the branding and advertising of their team as an attempt to undermine their club's legacy and heritage. They expressed their disagreement with these branding efforts online and at one point multiple fan groups were planning to organize real-life gatherings to hold protests.
But at this time, the club officials stepped in to tell the fans that the management was listening to the fans and actions would follow after consulting with ISL organizers FSDL and broadcasters Star Sports.
After meetings were held between all concenred parties, a decision was taken to pull down the original ads and release an edited version for airing on television. A decision to remove the controversial '3 stars' tag was also taken.
Additionally, the stats on the ISL official website are being modified so that ATK's past records are not attributed to ATK Mohun Bagan FC.
The Mariners will make their long awaited ISL debut on 20th November against Kerala Blasters. Their next opponents will be the arch-rivals East Bengal. But before the iconic Kolkata Derby rivalry heats up, this bit of internal conflict that Mohun Bagan fans endured seems to have handed a psychological advantage to East Bengal fans. The Red and Gold faithfuls have started relentlessly mocking their rivals about the advertisement.
Whether the ISL marketing department takes a lesson from this episode and begins to treat these iconic football clubs more as institutions with unique histories identities of their own instead of brands that can be manipulated at will remains to be seen.