As the highly Indian Premier League (IPL) enters its fifth year, franchises are increasingly reassessing their marketing strategies to shift the focus to digital marketing. The reason for this is two-fold. For one, most teams realize the high costs involved in national TV advertising and that TV ads lack the direct focus of online activities. Secondly, with analysts predicting a dip in interest in cricket after the recent, disappointing tri-series in Australia, marketing teams are leaving nothing to chance in terms of engaging fans.
What this means is that, this season, the IPL teams across the board are implementing unique and creative social media strategies to expand their fan base and engage fans in a more organic manner. The early results of their magnified efforts are clear – for instance, Delhi Daredevils, who had approximately 30,000 Facebook fans over the last four years, have added over 200,000 fans for this season; similarly, Chennai Super Kings went from 40,000 fans to over 9.3 lakhs in a few months. In fact, CSK’s Facebook page was the 8th highest growing page on Facebook in March.
This afternoon, the Chennai Super Kings Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheChennaiSuperKings) and website (http://www.chennaisuperkings.com) streamed a live broadcast of their first press conference of the season. In addition to allowing fans to monitor the latest developments about the team in a more efficient manner, the concept was also interactive in that it allowed fans to pose their own questions. In the days leading up to the broadcast, fans were encouraged on the Facebook page to ask questions to MS Dhoni. Over 1400 questions were crowdsourced from the page out of which the best 10 were selected to be asked to the CSK captain. Additionally, more than 65,000 people tuned into the live broadcast on the Facebook page itself, demonstrating the traction that campaigns devoted to building organic user interaction online can generate.
CSK’s live press conference is one step in the direction of a season that promises to be as much about on field cricket as innovative social media strategies. As the season progresses, we will undoubtedly see more such unique digital activities aimed at increasing and engaging fans across the world. There have already been several substantial steps in this direction. The Mumbai Indians, who have over 2.5 million followers on Facebook, have introduced the ‘Players Become Friends’ feature which allows fans to post questions directly to their favourite cricketers – and the players, including Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, will reply via personalized videos to them. Not to be outdone, the Delhi Daredevils launched a special contest on their Facebook page for fans to help design the team’s mascot and will also choose three fans via an online contest to travel with the team.
The increasing focus of IPL teams on social media marketing only underscores how important the role of digital PR will be this season to grow fan interest. Most current activities are aimed at increasing fans and followers on social media profiles, but the truly successful digital campaigns will be those that aim to build communities and lasting relationships revolving around fans.