The Australians might have lost the three-match T20I series to India, but they have been winning handsomely off the pitch through the entire home summer.
That Cricket Australia were desperate for the tour to go ahead amid the challenges posed by the pandemic was understandable. After all, financial windfall is guaranteed anytime the Indians come calling with their huge following.
At a time where cricket boards are facing severe financial crunches, an all-format clash against opposition led by superstar Virat Kohli is bound to set the cash registers ringing.
India’s visit will keep Cricket Australia’s television broadcast partners happy in a period of uncertainty around the cricketing world, but it is the digital media arm of the governing body that is stealing the show.
The highlights of India’s victory in the first T20I in Canberra has garnered more than 27 million views so far on Cricket.com.au’s YouTube channel. Hardik Pandya’s heroics in the second T20I has drawn even more eyeballs, with the video fetching more than 29 million views in just one day.
The video was, at one point, trending on YouTube in the East coast of the United States of America on Monday.
In fact, the 32 most viewed videos on the channel feature Indian involvement, with views ranging from 91m to 12m.
This tremendous footfall is not just limited to the YouTube page, and similar engagement has been seen on their Twitter account. The video of Matthew Wade’s comical quip to Shikhar Dhawan during the second T20I that he is “not MS Dhoni, not quick enough like Dhoni” went viral instantly among fans of the former India skipper.
The clip has attracted more than 780,000 views so far on Twitter, with as many as 33,000 people liking the tweet.
Apart from YouTube and Twitter, highlights and other video content are also available to viewers on Cricket.com.au’s web portal. Content is also being pushed through a Snapchat account. Quite simply, Cricket Australia’s social media channels have been thoroughly prepared to cash in on a mega home summer featuring the most popular cricket team on the planet.
The content has been captivating throughout the tour, and the engagement generated among fans has been mouthwatering. All of this stems from Cricket Australia’s decision to go big on digital media on the eve of the 2013-14 home Ashes series against England.
With a goal of online domination, the board launched a new digital media strategy to rival cricket’s biggest content providers such as ESPNcricinfo.
Led by their digital media arm Cricket Network, the board entered into a five-year partnership with Accenture in a bid to capture the global audience on online platforms. The domain Cricket.com.au was reserved exclusively for cricket coverage, scores, videos and live streaming of video and audio for matches.
Over the course of time, a mobile application has also been launched to bolster the digital media platform. While much of the content made available was due to the nature of Cricket Australia’s partnership with their broadcast partners, the board has actively looked to increase its own content creation in the last few years.
The advent of the Big Bash League as well as the Women’s Big Bash League has further helped Cricket Australia to pump out more content, and the results are there for all to see.
With more than 6m and 1m subscribers on YouTube and Twitter respectively, Cricket Australia’s following pales in comparison to that of the BCCI. Yet it is the Australians who are leading the way in terms of digital media penetration among all the international boards in the sport.
Despite India’s massive base of fans who have access to smartphones and the internet, the BCCI’s approach towards digital media is shockingly poor. That the board still does not have an official YouTube channel is inexplicable in the modern world of sports.
For a country with a cricket mad population as big as India, BCCI’s Twitter outreach is exceedingly low too. The account recently crossed the 13m followers mark, which looks paltry in comparison to Virat Kohli’s nearly 40m followers on the same platform.
While highlights of home matches are posted on a separate web portal in the form of BCCI.tv, they are missing from the board’s social media platforms. The lack of highlights on Twitter and Facebook can be put down to BCCI’s lucrative broadcast deals with its partners who will want to maintain exclusivity over the content.
However, that does not explain the absence of a YouTube channel and weak efforts to create engaging content on other platforms.
When a video of Tottenham Hotspur’s players indulging in a game of tennis-ball cricket became viral recently, the football club were quick to seize upon the opportunity. Spurs TV managed to rope in England Test stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad to review the cricket match between the football stars, including Harry Kane.
Not surprisingly, the video of Anderson and Broad gained plenty of traction on Tottenham’s Twitter, YouTube and Instagram accounts. This is just one way that the BCCI could also look to increase their digital engagement despite being handicapped by their contracts with television broadcast partners.
Every cricketing board around the world has invested in digital media of late and have flourishing YouTube channels along with other common social media platforms. Sri Lanka Cricket’s highlights of the 2018 Nidahas Trophy final between India and Bangladesh has been viewed a staggering 181m times on YouTube.
England are right up there with Australia in terms of digital media penetration, while the likes of Windies and New Zealand are also trying to actively increase their footprint online. Why the BCCI doesn’t bother to do the same despite sitting on a gold mine is a mystery.
They can take a life out of the IPL franchises who have adapted to the demands of modern times. During the 2020 IPL, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s YouTube engagement ranked pretty high among all sports teams around the world and even outperformed that of FC Barcelona.
In the current era, reaching out to fans through online mediums has become a necessity for every sports team in the world. BCCI’s reluctance to take the plunge is reminiscent of global football giants Manchester United who were pretty late in arriving to the party compared to other football teams.
They don’t have to look far for inspiration as Cricket Australia continues to lead the way in the cricketing world.
With a blockbuster Test series to come now between Australia and India, there will definitely be plenty of more captivating content to come from the Aussies.