It was announced earlier this month that the Chennai Super Kings have the largest fanbase for any sports franchise in India.
At 40.9 million fans, the Super Kings have almost a third of the total number of cricket fans in India.
The report highlights much of what is evident - that teams like the Super Kings continue to invest heavily into engaging and keeping their fans hooked.
Excelling in digital media has become a critical goal of sports teams. While many do the regular stuff - posting regularly, a combination of photo and video, content in multiple formats - there are teams that go the extra mile. This allows them to stand out and above the noise. It also allows them to tip casual cricket fans, who have no team to root for, into their camp.
In that case, what are five things that sport digital managers need to do in 2022?
Community building is, by far, the most important sports digital media requisite today.
Gone are the days when digital media was only about putting up posts on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
With the rapid growth in the number of users on these platforms, and the incredible amount of content going up, it has become important to find a way to hook your fans and users.
This is where community building plays a role.
Sports teams and their digital managers need to turn fans into community members. A fan is someone who follows your team, a community member is someone who feels like he or she belongs.
Sports engage with their community in a meaningful manner. From responding to good comments, addressing any queries, or even highlighting stand out members of the community, turning your fans into your community has become paramount.
Build an identity
An identity is the first thing sports teams work on before they launch. Choosing the right colours, the right brand language, the right copy and taglines, or even the font, plays a big role in ensuring fans embrace the team immediately.
Identity, however, is also rooted in the message of the sports team.
A Sports team must decide what it stands for, its values, and its principles. Even how it celebrates a win, or ponders a loss. A sports team has to take into consideration local sensibilities, tastes, and preferences when designing its brand identity.
Examples of popular phrases that became entrenched with a sports team’s identity are Whistle Podu of the Chennai Super Kings and #AamchiCity for Mumbai City FC.
What does this have to do with digital media? A lot.
A sports digital manager must design a sports team’s posts and campaigns around its original identity. Fans and the community attach their sports team to their personal identity. Ensuring that the sports team's identity and messaging are consistent across campaigns is a critical aspect of a sports digital manager’s job.
As digital media continues to evolve, the potential for brands and sponsor partnerships also evolves.
Sports teams are now entering deals with brands and sponsors that allow for exclusive activation over digital and social media. Digital and social media deliverables have also become an important part of larger partnership deals such as that of the title or associate sponsors.
However, when it comes to purely digital deals, a sponsor that resonates and adds value to the community built by the sports teams should be the priority.
Sure there are brands that have a universal appeal - such as beverages, or snacks. However, simply putting up a post on social media in return for money is not enough anymore. Sports teams, and sports digital managers are actively seeking out partnerships that allow them to capitalize on the community they have built online.
This can be anything from working with local brands that are popular in the host city, to providing fans and the community the chance to win exclusive products or services. Simply put, if a sponsorship has no benefit to their fans and the community, sports teams and sports digital managers would take a hard look if they even want to associate with a sponsor in the first place.
Not all sports teams have their owners or management hail from the host city. In India, it is not uncommon for teams to have their management sit out of a metro such as Bangalore or Mumbai or Delhi.
However, no matter who or where the ownership is, it is critical that the messaging and the content are highly localised to the sports teams' host city.
Content in the local language, vernacular, colloquialism, or using locales and venues that are known and familiar to the fan base goes a long way in boosting engagement.
Fans may consume content in English, but they communicate and engage in their mother tongue. Sports teams and sports digital managers need to be cognizant of this and plan their campaigns accordingly.
Staying consistent - Frequency and Messaging
Social media platforms benefit from more users and more usage of their platform. That way they can serve ads and promotional posts. Due to this, they often push or prioritize digital media accounts that post on a consistent basis.
There is no magic number, and different platforms work differently.
However, sports digital managers have to test rigorously to see how and where the sweet spot for the number of posts lies. Not only that, they have to test what are the best times to post, and which social and digital media channels.
When you post is as important as what you post.
Engaging fans during a game, pre-game and post-game interaction, and engagement during the offseason, are critical parts of a sports digital manager’s comprehensive digital plan.
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