While the world was struggling to deal with COVID, teams across various sporting formats remained connected to their fanbase by amplifying the digital experiences, setting fan expectations going forward.
Today, fans are looking to be engaged according to their unique preferences. They strive for connection to the hero players – to their stories, their batting or bowling statistics and highlights of amazing catches or massive sixes (within the world of cricket). They also want the ability to rewind, see that content again, and see it in features like a highlights package. In these ways, heroes' significant sporting moments can be experienced all over the country, not just from the national team.
The grassroots impact of fan engagement, for cricket, is significant – research says that 80% of cricket fans started their life-long love affair with the game through playing at a grassroots level, so it’s critically important that cricket can engage and inspire the next generation of players from an early age.
Beyond a website
With the acceleration of digital engagement platforms, there are exciting new options for fans who don’t attend a match in person. The development of cricket.com.au and the CA Live app, key parts of one of Australia’s most respected sporting properties and core to cricket fan engagement; have become the go-to for cricket fans. Properties like this have expanded their approach by moving from a single website to a multi-channel approach, ensuring that engagement happens beyond the website to other CA apps like Cricket Live and the soon-to-be-launched Cricket Australia Match Centre.
When the Cricket Australia Match Centre kicks off in October, the site will be the source of all the best World Cup highlights. There will be player profiles from all participating countries, not just Australia, as well as merchandise and ticket sales. Fans can select their favorite players and teams from around the world and can track every game’s current score in real time. There are even options to live stream matches and commentary.
With the introduction of these experiences, expectations are now firmly centered around much more consistent and relevant content through all channels. With the competition for fans’ time and attention significantly increasing. The engagement challenge is serving the most relevant and personalized content to the right fans through their preferred engagement channel.
Even with modern, receptive, and engaging websites and apps, fan expectations have transitioned to required connection across multiple online platforms, and an inclusive and integrated physical presence at a stadium for a big game or match.
Grassroots player engagement taken to the next level
Cricket Australia is also taking grassroots player engagement to the next level.
The platform has been on a digital evolution since the early 2000’s. Twenty years ago, cricket clubs and associations did not have a competition management solution in place – all results were emailed or phoned in to the association and a competition ladder was published months afterwards.
In 2005, Cricket Australia implemented a web-based competition management platform which allowed clubs and associations to greatly simplify the administration involved with the fixturing, team selection, and recording of results on a weekly basis, a major step-change for the time.
In 2018, after substantial participant research and feedback, the web solution was extended with a mobile app (MyCricket Live Score app) to deliver scoring at games. In the last season, over 65% of games live-scored and two million balls being bowled and recorded in real time every weekend – something that would have been unfathomable back in 2005.
Leveraging the power of the cloud
“Despite the new capabilities being well received, our core architecture was still based on our original investment in the early 2000’s, before iPhones were even available. We realized we needed to restructure to leverage the power of the cloud,” said Don Elliott, General Manager – Technology at Cricket Australia.
Back in 2019, prior to the pandemic, Cricket Australia made significant digitization progress when they commenced a program of work to move from their old bespoke solution to a new cloud-based architecture where modern apps could be rapidly integrated through a set of common APIs to deliver the products and services required to support cricket. HCLTech, their strategic delivery partner, was engaged from the outset to build out the foundation capabilities and integrate both the new competition management solution with their existing apps. This investment has now made it possible to accelerate innovation.
In addition to rolling out the new competition management solution for this season, Cricket Australia and HCLTech are working with partners to deliver a new live streaming capability for community clubs that uses AI to identify key moments in a match and deliver highlights packages direct to player’s phones through their MyCricket app. Through these innovations, cricket is delivering incredible digital experiences to every player, their family, and friends. These experiences were previously only available at the elite level. With the advent of this innovation, cricket can now build the next generation of fans for life.
The cloud-based platform strategy is moving Cricket Australia towards a seamless, integrated fan experience – from fans booking their ticket at the match, to scanning their ticket on entry, to finding their allocated seat, and preferred food vendor options.
“As we move into the future, cricket is no longer just competing with other sports for fan engagement. It’s competing for an ever-decreasing share of people’s attention against a whole new range of entertainment options, including streaming video services, eSports/Twitch, and the like. To stay relevant, we must deliver brilliant in-person and digital experiences to keep new audiences engaged,” continued Elliott.
Moving forward: personalized experiences and engaging stories
In the future, Cricket Australia’s content, optimized for different streams and viewing channels, will deliver fans the ability to both see the game and interact with it in any way they choose, both virtually and physically. The aspiration is to provide more personalized fan experiences using real-time data analytics.
The future intent is to engage and inspire the dedicated fanbase, convert sports followers to passionate fans, and intimately connect them to their heroes and teams through multiple digital platforms with a plethora of consumption options. This will not only drive the sporting economy but ensure it is agile enough to thrive alongside new content consumption models to deliver brilliant experiences to every fan.