Cricket enjoys unmatched popularity in India and governing body ICC, with its unprecedented digital presence in the ongoing ODI World Cup, wants to build on that by attracting the ”Gen Zs and 10-year olds” to the game.
As part of its global growth strategy, the International Cricket Council (ICC) wants to directly reach 300 million fans by 2032 and a chunk of that will come from India. It is also hoping a substantial number will come from USA, where the game will break new ground next year when the T20 Word Cup takes place.
The world body sees huge potential in converting a ”casual cricket fan” to a passionate one, besides tapping in on a new audience who has no idea about the game. The youth of India, just like the rest of the world, consumes its content through streaming apps and a world event in the country after seven years has given the ICC an ideal platform to work on its long-term goals.
In collaboration with Meta, the ICC is working with as many as 50 Indian influencers who are creating content in 10 languages. They have been given exclusive access to the players, both behind the scenes and in the field of play with an aim of creating emotional connect with the compulsive social media users. ”The World Cup has always been a big showcase for the game. Traditionally it has been the event that gets people, who are not big cricket fans or casual fans, interested towards the game,” Finn Bradshaw, Head of Digital at ICC, told PTI.
”From a digital perspective we see it as a great opportunity to expand the fan base in India. When we talk about increasing fan base, we think a lot about younger people.
”We know the the way people consume media is changing. Young people are using a lot of social media. We want to make sure that we are not just making content in a traditional way. Hopefully there will be more fans of cricket than that were there at the start of the World Cup.” But is there a need for such an aggressive digital strategy in already a cricket crazy nation? ”It is needed but less so compared to other countries. India is the heartbeat of world cricket and engine of cricket in a lot of ways.
”If you look at consumption patterns of young people in India and other parts of the world, they are no longer watching broadcast TV,” said Bradshaw, who also has the experience of working with Tennis Australia.
”I would say Gen Zs are the ones we put more time to, to try and understand their way oof consuming content. I would say even the next generation after Gen Z. ”We spend a lot of time thinking about 10-14 year-olds. We are working with the experts to create an interactive experience which targets kids. For us it is of no point doing it if we.” Gen Z refers to the generation that was born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s.
We have boundaries and content creators have to respect that
The influencers have been granted special access to the players who may not be as open as content creators are. ”We have boundaries and we expect all content creators to respect. Some of the influencers are not used to having those boundaries and that is what makes them successful.
”These are people who don’t have a lot of experience with and things like media rights agreement but we are in a pretty sweet spot,” said Bradshaw.
ICC also banking on digital media for 2024 World Cup in USA
Making a mark in an untapped market like the USA will be a bigger challenge for ICC and its digital team. It will be the first time that the World Cup will be staged on American shores.
With cricket included on the 2028 Los Angels Olympics, the World Cup next year gains more significance. The ICC will be pulling all stops to lure an average American who has grown up on baseball and NFL and has no idea about cricket. ”That is a great challenge, another massive market of 330 million people, it is like India, not all places have the same culture. We are doing a lot of work researching the market, like which demographics are likely to sort of have an interest towards cricket and we can target them.
”People will be attracted to the idea of going to an event which is world class and it is coming to your city. T20 is an ideal platform for that. We need to make them intrigued enough to come to game but it is a big challenge,” said Bradshaw.
The ICC is in the process of shortlisting the list of influencers and celebrities from other sports who can help them promote cricket in USA.
Cricket remains a sport with limited reach and is in need of performances showcased by teams like Afghanistan in the ODI World Cup and Nepal, who have qualified for the T20 showpiece next year.
”Having Afghanistan perform so well brings so much colour and energy and Nepal will be playing next year. We want to keep making sure these new countries are coming through,” Bradshaw added.