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A World Without Sport – Part 1

It’s incredible to think that it was only two and a half weeks ago that 86,000 fans were packed inside the MCG watching the Australian Women’s Cricket team celebrate their ICC T20 World Cup title on stage with Katy Perry.

It was a seismic moment in women’s sport. Not only did the Aussie team capture the imagination of a generation of young girls with a sublime performance on International Women’s Day, but it was also the highest crowd figure ever for a women’s cricket match globally. As the sun set at the MCG, COVID-19 was simply something on the horizon. Of course, it looked terrible on the news in China and Italy, but still remained very much on the horizon…

 

 

Today, COVID-19 is the reality for every sports organisation around the world. Not even the most cautious sports executive would have forecast such a crisis. As Murray Barnett described on a recent Unofficial Partner Podcast, the sports industry is currently “punch drunk”. A situation in which no sport would be played around the world, and major competitions Euro 2020 and The Olympics would be postponed, is simply unthinkable.

Whilst there are bigger concerns for the world to deal with than the lack of sport, the COVID-19 crisis is of course unique. In other periods of crisis, from recessions to terrorism, sport has often provided comfort for people and generated positivity from the dire reality, and here we are without our usual go-to pick me up in this time of crisis.

So what do we do now?

For those currently at home (which should be everyone, #StayAtHome), the recent Netflix series “The English Game” is a great watch and a fabulous example of the power of sport as an important connective tissue to bind people together, both across and within societies. Without giving any spoilers away, the series dives back to the 1880’s and tells a story of two footballers on opposite sides of the class divide, who forge a bond to help bring the upper-class sport and its joy to the masses, in particular the mill workers of Northern England. It was the birth of modern football and professionalism as we know it, but the series at its core shows the power that sport has, even back in the 1880’s, to distract humans from life’s troubles.

 

Looking to the future

So as we navigate our way through this increasingly anxious and unknown period, the lack of sport only exacerbates this feeling. For the sports industry, the commercial consequences of media rights, sponsorship, ticketing and hospitality revenues suddenly drying up has sent shivers throughout the entire ecosystem, and will no doubt change the industry and its operating model forever. However, just as COVID-19 was on the horizon at MCG a few weeks ago, so too are the myriad of sports events that are to eventually come.

For any sports fan, the prospect of the European Championships, Olympics, Lions Tour, Ryder Cup, ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and many other events sitting ready to reignite once the virus has passed is beyond exciting. As Southampton CEO Martin Semmens explained, that once it is safe to do so, the return of sport will be a crucial sign that life is ‘returning to normal’.

But for now, as fans rightly stay at home the sports series, archive footage and rightsholder digital platforms become more important than ever in keeping the sports audiences engaged (and sane!) whilst also keeping the commercial ecosystem alive. And when the sun rises, there is no doubt that sport will be welcomed back by the world with open arms, returning bigger and better than ever…

Keep an eye out…..

We’ll be keeping in touch and keeping you up-to-date with our “A World Without Sport” blog series. We’ll share as far and wide as we can when new posts go up but keep an eye on our social media channels and our website!

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Hampshire Cricket Claim Two Prestigious Prizes at ECB Business Of Cricket Awards

Hampshire Cricket claimed two prizes, including the Best Loyalty Initiative Award for the innovative Hampshire Cricket App, at the annual Business of Cricket Awards hosted at the Ageas Bowl on Thursday evening.

The accolade, which recognises a creative and innovative approach to engaging with fans and Members, was presented to the club for the launch of its new App – the first of its type in English county cricket – which has helped to bring fans closer to the action whilst enhancing the matchday experience at the Ageas Bowl.

The free-to-download App, developed in partnership with InCrowd, has enabled Hampshire fans all over the world to enjoy live streaming, scorecards and video highlights of Hampshire matches as well as access to exclusive content and behind-the-scenes footage. Fans have been able to have their say courtesy of player of the match polls, while a Fan Cam allows supporters to share their experience of following Hampshire to see themselves on the Ageas Bowl’s big screens or social channels.

The early success of the App, launched in May 2019, has seen users spend more than 2.3 million minutes on the platform, accumulating over 1.5 million page views in that time. Another key component of the App’s functionality is its ticketing wallet and this has also been particularly well received with more than 17,000 digital tickets used to gain admission to the Ageas Bowl for matches during the 2019 season.

Hampshire Cricket’s Head of Marketing, Harry Walklin, also received the Rising Star Award at the ceremony as the club celebrated an awards double, while the club was shortlisted for its Blast IT Communications Campaign, in which the App played a central role.

Head of Marketing, Harry Walklin said: “It was a huge privilege to host this year’s Business of Cricket Awards and we’re thrilled the Hampshire Cricket App was recognised. The App was developed with our fans firmly in mind and we’ve been delighted to see so many of our supporters utilising it to stay close to everything going on at the club. We’re looking to add some exciting new features and functionality over the coming months, ahead of what’s set to be another huge summer at the Ageas Bowl.”

The BOCAs, which aim to recognise non-playing excellence in the professional game, saw the nationwide county network join together to celebrate outstanding and innovative business practice in the sport.

The event, hosted by BBC presenter Mark Chapman, was held at the home of Hampshire Cricket for the first time with ECB Chief Executive Officer Tom Harrison and ECB Chairman Colin Graves both in attendance.

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BLOG: Split Screen Sunday

Following what is arguably one of the most incredible sporting Sundays in living memory, the traditional rating figures for the F1 British Grand Prix, Men’s ICC Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon Finals were released the following day.

With Sky Sports releasing coverage to a free-to-air audience on Channel 4, 8.3 million people watched the drama of a Super Over unfold, whilst a peak of 9.6m watched Novak Djokovic’s victory over Roger Federer in an equally titanic battle at Wimbledon and a further 3.7m viewers tuning in to see Lewis Hamilton win a record-breaking sixth British Grand Prix. In addition, the Netball World Cup in Liverpool was in its first weekend on Sky Sports and live-streamed in the UK by Sky Sports over YouTube.

However, on an afternoon described as ‘Split Screen Sunday’ by Sports Pro writer Eoin Connolly, two interesting topics were at the forefront of conversation here at InCrowd:

Servicing Fans

The debate around OTT vs Traditional Broadcast has been rumbling for a while now, but if anything, Sunday 14th July highlighted that ultimately fans don’t care through which platform the sport is delivered, as long as they can watch it. With 3 events happing concurrently, fans were left to argue which event took precedent and made it on to the TV, before utilising laptops, phones and tablets to stream the rest of the action. Clearly, this is a challenge, not only to the fan experience but to the whole concept of ‘attention’ which is so fundamental to the broadcast commercial model.

As a ‘Pom’ living in Australia, I’ve had the pleasure of using the Fox Sports-backed OTT service Kayo Sports, which includes a split-screen option that allows viewers to watch up to four streams at once. With sports scheduling becoming ever more congested, it will be interesting to see how broadcasters & rightsholders use technology to adapt to this challenge.

Audience Understanding

Whilst the traditional broadcast figures highlighted the impact that the sporting drama had on mass audiences, it was digital where the conversation and engagement were really happening. You only need to look at Google Trends to see the incredible spike that occurred when people grabbed their phones to Google what a ‘Super Over’ was!

As sport grapples with an explosion of media platforms and channels, it is becoming more and more important for sports rightsholders to own these conversations on digital, and to understand the ‘fans behind the figures’. For example, the BBC’s live feed broke records by recording 3.9m unique browsers…but how many of this 3.9m are known to the rightsholders of Cricket, Tennis & F1? Traditional figures behind the broadcast, ticketing and merchandise only tell a part of the engagement story. At InCrowd, we are delving into more and more data sources to not only identify each fan but to uncover & understand their emotional attachments to the sport. This ensures that sports can communicate and develop new relationships with each fan on a more personal level.

Sunday 14th July was undoubtedly the best sporting day of the year; big sporting moments saw big viewing numbers and new fans were brought into the worlds of Cricket, Tennis and Formula 1. But who are these fans? Data and real audience understanding would ensure that these relationships can be nurtured and harnessed over the subsequent 364 days…

 

Source Material: http://www.sportspromedia.com/opinion/cricket-world-cup-final-wimbledon-f1-british-gp-split-screen-broadcast

Hampshire Cricket Launch Brand New App

Hampshire Cricket and the Ageas Bowl are delighted to announce the launch of a brand new app, built in partnership with InCrowd.

The app, free for fans to download and available across both iOS and Android devices, will create a unique matchday experience for all spectators whilst further improving the engagement of cricket fans both inside and outside the Ageas Bowl. The app further demonstrates the Club’s commitment to innovation and is a part of the digital transformation process to develop a fully-connected stadium following last year’s introduction of giant Samsung LED screens and leading Wi-Fi technology.

Paperless ticketing is a key component of the app’s functionality with fans able to access tickets for matches at the Ageas Bowl and gain admission using their device via the app. Thanks to the newly developed mobile ticket wallet technology from InCrowd, fans will also have the ability to securely forward digital tickets to friends and family across operating systems, supporting the venue’s fight against ticket touts and improving entrance times.

The app will also feature an interactive wayfinding map, with those attending the Ageas Bowl on a matchday able to use the navigation tools to find amenities, activations and other locations. Fans both in the ground and at home will also be able to enjoy live streaming and video highlights of all non-televised Hampshire matches at the Ageas Bowl with exclusive content and behind-the-scenes content also hosted on the platform.

“We’re proud of the Ageas Bowl’s history of being at the cutting-edge of innovation in cricket and the launch of the Hampshire Cricket App is the latest example of this. The App has been developed with our fans firmly in mind and after seeing record-breaking customer and matchday experience scores and feedback in 2018, we’re confident the App will see Hampshire fans and Ageas Bowl attendees enjoy even more memorable experiences this summer” says David Mann, The Ageas Bowl Chief Executive.

InCrowd CEO Aidan Cooney says: “We are delighted that Hampshire Cricket is putting the fan first and has implemented InCrowd technology including the native ticket wallet to deliver an efficient and stress-free match day experience. At InCrowd, all our research and development is driven by fan feedback and we are looking forward to working with the club to really deliver on the promise of a better fan experience.”

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InCrowd pairs with ICC again for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2017

After the success of the ICC FanScore Champions Trophy app, InCrowd and the International Cricket Council (ICC) are delighted to announce the launch of the new Official ICC FanScore Women’s World Cup app.

The app, which is available to download on both iOS and Android will follow the same format as the ICC Champions Trophy version, allowing fans to play for their favourite nation through a series of cricket predictors and will run throughout the ICC Women’s World Cup, held in England and Wales from the 24th June to 23rd July.

ICC FanScore Women’s World Cup 2017 utilises a series of easy-to-play predictor games and polls, giving cricket fans the chance to add some extra spice to the tournament by challenging their friends, competing against other fans, representing their nation and winning some fantastic money-can’t-buy prizes. These include a bat, signed by all the captains, a signed Sachin Tendulkar cap plus plenty more.   

The app also allows users to vote for their Fans’ Player of the Match as well being able to predict on multiple events within a match such as: 

  •  Match Winner
  •  Number of Runs in 1st Innings
  •  Highest Run Scorer
  •  Best Bowler

Prizes will be awarded to the best performing fans on multiple occasions throughout the tournament.

FanScore’s integrated push notification system will continue to give the ICC a new data-driven and highly targeted channel to communicate to their fans on a regular basis throughout the competition.

Aidan Cooney, CEO of InCrowd said: “After the success of the FanScore app for the ICC Champions Trophy we’re delighted to once again be working with the ICC, this time on the Women’s World Cup. With the growth of the women’s game in recent times it is a great opportunity for us to help raise visibility and engagement within women’s sport as well as providing fans with an enhanced experience of what should be a hugely competitive tournament.”

How to Increase Fan Engagement in Cricket

Cricket’s administrators should follow the women’s Ashes structure to increase fan engagement and TV revenue.

In 2013, the women’s Ashes was restructured to give one winner, taking into account performances across the Test, ODI and T20 formats. It was a huge success with greater national media interest than ever before. I think parts of the men’s game should learn from Clare Connor’s brilliant initiative.

Cricket has a problem – with three different formats it is hard to keep track. I have read a paper on David Kendrix’s ICC ranking system and studied how the County Championship points work. That probably defines me as a cricket nerd but I still have no idea which is the best county or even the best international team!

By combining the three formats into one competition, it would enable fans to understand what is going on throughout the tour.

cricket_format

International Example

Firstly, let’s take a typical England tour to India with 4 Tests, 4 ODIs and 4 T20s. I would then allocate:

  • 4 points for a Test win
  • 2 points for an ODI win
  • 2 points for a T20 win
  • Half points for a draw or tie

Enhancing Narrative

Work is then needed to make every match matter.

I think tennis does this fantastically well. Each game reaches regular climaxes with big implications for the overall match. The pressure boils over at the end of a set where risks are required and mistakes are costly.

We could do the same with cricket. Each “set” (1 x Test, 1 x ODI, 1 x T20) would take two weeks and could be repeated across the summer, providing broadcasters with regular scheduling:

Week 1
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Test 1Test 2Test 3Test 4
Week 2
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Test 5T20ODI

Each of these matches are important for the set and each set would be vital in the context of the overall series.

Consequences of points system

  • Match 1 (5 Day test): Starting the set and generating most points (4) allows test match cricket to retain its status as the most important match to win. Winning it would guarantee at least a draw in the set.
  • Match 2 (T20): Whatever the outcome of the test match, there would be everything to play for in the Friday evening big ticket T20. Off the back of a test victory, a team has the chance to clinch the set. A test defeat would position this a must win game.
  • Match 3 (Sunday ODI): Unless a team has won both the test and T20, there is still everything to play for in this deciding match, perfectly placed for a family day on the Sunday.

That would complete the set before we are back for another scintillating round starting with the test match.

Squad Dynamics

Player selection, rotation and management would become key strategies and talking points over the series. Perhaps, like in limited overs tournaments, the squad size could be restricted forcing players to excel at all formats or be tactically rotated by management. Would Cook be good enough to retain his place in a squad of 15 or would this give a chance to Alex Hales in test cricket?

An initial issue with a proposal like this is that players might find it hard to make constant format adjustments but shouldn’t that be part of the game? This is a proposal for fans not players.

Easy to Follow

The greatest advantage of this structure is how easy it is for fans to follow. With a consistent narrative built throughout the tour, we would remember key moments and know who the best team is rather than it being broken down by format. This is a big part of the 2013 women’s Ashes success.

When fans find sport easy to follow, it usually has positive implications for broadcasters. That, at least, should give encourage the game’s administrators.