How Cricket’s Hitting A Six In Going Digital

Ryan Whelan, Account Executive in MEC Access Event Partnerships, takes a look at the digitalisation process behind one of Britain’s most traditional sports.


Cricket’s First Digital World Cup

Even cynics and staunch traditionalists would have to agree that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 has been a considerable success so far. High scoring matches, inspiring performances by minnow nations, sunny weather and encouraging attendances have set the tone as we head towards the business end of the tournament.

Off the field, things have been just as interesting! For the first time the ICC has fully embraced digital for its quadrennial showpiece and some brands have found innovative ways to rise above the clutter.

ICC goes all-out digital   

The ICC has clearly directed resources towards modernizing the sport on (think red flashing LED stumps) and off the field. Television broadcasts include flashy new graphics and statistics that have engaged fans via social media, even if proving too much for commentators like Shane Warne to get their heads around!

The ICC have delivered a revamped website, which is responsive, slick and includes a content-rich video library and match centre powered by SAP. Their official app is currently rated the number 1 sports app in close to 20 countries. Before a ball had been bowled over 150,000 fantasy teams had been registered on the CWC Fantasy platform. This all makes for impressive reading and is another reminder that even the most traditional of sports need to cater for a content hungry and digitally savvy fan base.

The social media buzz around the 2015 tournament is light-years ahead of the 2011 tournament. Analysis shows that the number of online interactions amongst the top 10 most active nations have grown exponentially from 8,930 to 739,050.

Best brand play

Brands have also come to the party. A stand out example is the Tui Catch a Million promotion which is linked to the success of the NZ Black Caps cricket team during the tournament. Fans who cleanly catch the ball (with one hand) at matches held on New Zealand soil are entered into a prize pool. The amount increases as New Zealand advances in the tournament, culminating in NZ$1M if they win the cup (Tui must be getting nervous after victory over the Aussies made it 4 from 4 for the Black Caps!). The total prize pool is then split among the lucky (and talented) individuals who have achieved the one-handed feat. Tui has run this promotion previously, but not during a world cup, nor at a time where New Zealand have firmly cemented themselves as one of the tournament favourites.

Tui received some good press exposure when the brand entered into a dispute with a fan who claimed to take a clean one-handed catch at the match between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. Tui stood strong by saying fumbled catches don’t count and were quick to cut the fan’s hope with their legendary tongue-in-cheek phrase ‘Yeah Right’. Tui’s brand personality on Twitter is notoriously light-hearted and cheeky and all their offline behaviour supports this brand positioning.


 Twitter and CWC: A relationship that works

Twitter have also caught our attention during the CWC. Their Cricket World Cup 2015 Timeline is a central hub of information and interaction, and has been designed in a way that allows tweets to be filtered in two ways; your match of interest or the tournament in general. Most Twitter users have been given a special homepage experience during the Cricket World Cup as featured at the top of the article.

In a wider strategy to reach an audience beyond its walls, Twitter has turned its attention to CWC, with a specific focus on India. Mobile phone owners do not need a Twitter account to receive tweets. Fans can receive tweets from the official Twitter account of the ICC (in the form of a SMS) by calling into a designated number and leaving a missed call.

Social media channels are looking to the world’s second largest country (and its neighbours) as a key area in their battle for growth. Cricket is king across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and together they account for over 1 in 5 of the global population. The February 15 Pakistan – India clash was a reminder of the unfathomable popularity of the sport in the region. A record 288 million Indian viewers tuned in to watch the match, the most watched television event in India in the last four years, since the 2011 final. The match also dominated the Indian Twittersphere, with it being the focus of 10/10 trends on Twitter Web, and 15/15 trends on Twitter Mobile, reminding us all that nothing is bigger to Indians than the CWC.

Ultimately the CWC 2015 will be remembered for what happens on the field and which team is crowned world champions come March 29. Off the field the tournament marks a new chapter for the ICC as they push the sport further from its traditional roots, re-positioning cricket as innovative and cutting edge as ever.

If you’d like to bowl some thoughts over to Ryan he will catch them over at the @MECUK Twitter handle.