Biprorshee Das

ICC bets on digital and social media to enhance reach

The International Cricket Council plans to leverage the ongoing World Twenty20 to encourage conversations and engagement among fans, not just in the traditional cricket playing territories but beyond as well.

The country is busy cheering what can be called its favourite sporting team fighting it out at the ICC World Twenty20 that is currently underway in Sri Lanka. And, while 12 nations chase glory, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is busy trying to make the most of what it has found to be cricket's most popular format - Twenty20 - around the world to expand the game's reach and popularity.

ICC bets on digital and social media to enhance reach
"The ICC's ambition is to make cricket a bigger, better and global game. The Twenty20 format is one we find that is appealing more to consumers from non-traditional markets. The World Twenty20 is our biggest and best opportunity to try and grow the game in those markets," says Jon Long, head of executive programmes, ICC in a conversation with afaqs!.

Cricket's governing body hence bets on the digital and social media platforms to reach out to a global audience.

Around the ongoing tournament, it has an event website with unique assets of its own, particularly online video. The website is complimented by an official ICC mobile app developed in collaboration with Reliance Mobile.

On social media, besides regular updates on ICC's much popular Facebook page, there is a lot of buzz happening around Twitter. With the hashtag #WT20, fans are being encouraged to tweet regularly and keep the conversation going, making it a comprehensive stream of everything that is going on around the event.

The use of the hashtag has also been incentivised with the 'Flock to Unlock' campaign in partnership with Emirates, wherein fans will be rewarded as they cross certain milestones using the event hashtag.

Facebook, on the other hand, is being used not just for the World Twenty20 but other special events as well, for example, the LG ICC Awards, where fans voted for the LG People's Choice Awards via a Facebook application. ICC will roll out new Facebook integrations on the ICC Cricket 360 weekly magazine programme in the coming months.

With engagement being the focal point, ICC has also tried to bring fans closer to the event experience. Prior to the tournament, fans voted for the pictures that will be put up in teams' dressing rooms on Facebook. Sri Lankan fans were given the chance to feature in the video of the event song, while through the tournament fans can follow much more than just the matches and get involved through the event website.

"It is certainly the most expensive approach that we have taken by having all our partners buy into our plans and work with us on them. It definitely helps expand the reach we are looking to achieve," says Long.

"Our focus is very much on engagement and reach. The reasons why this event is great for engagement and reach is because it involves teams from all over the world, and is reaching out to audiences all over the world. The broadcast of the World T20 is the widest reaching one we have done," he adds.

The broadcast of the World Twenty20 includes South America, Europe (in different languages) and North America in more accessible ways than before and of course, the traditional cricket territories.

"The broadcast reach is wider than ever before and we wanted to compliment that with a social media digital offering," says Long.

Over the previous major ICC events, the organisation has identified increasing activity on digital across the globe; be it through the official ICC channels or through traditional media, websites, sports magazines and portals.

"The audiences on our platforms are coming from all over the world. India is the dominant source of traffic. The second, surprisingly, is USA. A large audience is consuming ICC events from North America. Sure, those fans are often expatriates from the countries that are playing in the event but the reach is there already," notes Long.

Serious about its digital commitment, ICC has its strategy in place as Long says that the buzz is not just created and dead with a particular tournament. The practice has been in place since the Cricket World Cup last year and the onus is to only build a larger and global cricket community through digital and especially social media.

The organisation also has a close watch on consumption trends among fans, particularly with the mobile revolution as more and more people demand content on the go.

"There is a commitment from the ICC Board that the next World Twenty20 tournament will be a 16-team event. We certainly see the new audience to be important but that is not to say we are ignoring the current markets," says Long.

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