Tuesday, 11 November 2014

County Cricket Twitter Statistics (November 2013 - 2014)

12 months ago, I compiled some research into Twitter followings across the 18 first class counties on the professional cricket circuit.

This data was very interesting, but a year on I thought it would be very insightful to replicate this data and show how much things have changed over a period of time.

The results show just how much social media has grown in the cricket industry, and equally how this increase shows the expanded audience that social media gives cricket clubs.

As you can see, following of clubs Twitter accounts has risen an incredible 164% average. Every single account has more than doubled in following, and each club is speaking to an average of over 20,000 fans.  

*Data taken from Twitter.com from a period between 11th November 2013 and 11th November 2014. Please note that data was recorded personally.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Can Sky Sports News Influence Social Media in Cricket?

On August 12th, sport channel Sky Sports News underwent a re-branding exercise and became Sky Sports News HQ. Although many saw the change as 'artificial' and 'pointless', there was one development that I believe could have impacts on the social media industry in cricket.

You might think that any changes would affect all sports, but how Sky have adopted social media into their news stories means added significance on clubs getting their social media strategy correct. 

This is what Sky are describing:

"A social media desk will immerse viewers in the newsroom environment as Sky Sports News HQ reporters investigate what’s being said on social media channels. Users will be able to have their say and join the debate via our apps, skysports.com and social media."
A typical sports story will now often pull tweets from a clubs official social media channel to add credibility, as well as fans and players opinions. The interesting point here is that large footballing organisations are well positioned to take advantage of this, but I believe that cricket (particularly the county game) is not yet knowledgeable of this increased exposure.
It could mean that a mistake on social media will be broadcast to a much wider audience than everyone thinks. The average viewership of Sky Sports News HQ is likely to be higher than followers of most county cricket clubs. It could also be worked in a favourable circumstance, with powerful content from an official account being noticed by Sky and regularly broadcast.  
A small thing? Maybe. But everyone will point to the growth of the digital industry and to why Sky have incorporated this into their strategy, so I believe it is time for county cricket clubs to also get serious when it comes to social media and reap the benefits of increased exposure from an unlikely angle. 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Is the 2005 Ashes Legacy Starting to prosper?

12th September, 2005 was without doubt a momentous day in the history of English cricket. After scoring his maiden test century and ultimately ensuring the match was safe, Kevin Pietersen walked off the then Brit Oval knowing that England had won the Ashes for the first time in 18 years.

It is now nearly a decade since these events took place and Ian Bell is the only survivor in the England squad for the forthcoming summers Ashes. A lot has changed in the cricketing world over this period, but the 2005 Ashes saw perhaps the greatest advert that modern day test cricket has ever had.  Looking at the viewing statistics, 7.4 million people tuned in to watch Pietersen's heroics, which broke several Channel 4 viewing records.

What the ECB wanted to achieve after this event was a lasting long term legacy for the sport. We have all seen the term 'legacy' branded all over the London 2012 Olympics, but achieving a long term legacy has proved very difficult for many sporting events. The ECB clearly wanted to widen the appeal of cricket to the masses and in particular, children. Based on increased participation at grass roots level, the idea is that this would filter up into a stronger pool of talent at international level.

If we think about it, a 12-year-old watching that series would now be old enough to be playing professional cricket. It is, therefore, an appropriate time to analyse the legacy of the 2005 Ashes. There certainly seems to be a crop of young English talent that would fit this age billing. The likes of Joe Root and Jos Buttler have all played test cricket for England in the past 6 months. They are often described as a 'new breed' of cricketer, but is this due to these guys being inspired by Pietserson and Co. to take up the game?

Unfortunately, there is another factor that we must consider. About the same time as the 2005 Ashes, Twenty20 cricket in this country was really starting to flourish. After its introduction in 2003, clubs and countries had truly realised its potential by 2005. When looking at the above mentioned cricketers, it is evident that they grew up with Twenty20 cricket and well as that Ashes success, and this has seen their games adapted to suit the format.

So in reality it’s very difficult to provide tangible evidence to suggest we are now seeing those inspired kids scoring hundreds for England. It is likely that the 2005 Ashes may have provided a short-term legacy, inspiring a cohort more than a generation. Twenty20 cricket will very likely be the main source of inspiration for today's 13-year-olds.  The implications this could have for test cricket can long be discussed but for now, we can conclude that the likes of Root and Buttler can be considered almost 'hybrid' cricketers. In another 10 years however, we could be seeing a very different brand of cricketer breaking onto the international stage.

By Ben Warren

Fanaticism in Sport

It is often said that sport possesses 'sacred' qualities, and sport is like religion to many people. But is this really the case? Do sports fans devote themselves to sport like some do religion?

One simple way to analyse a sports fan is to look closely at the term itself.  The word 'fan' is short for 'fanatic'. This is often ignored, but the term 'fanatic' can provide a great insight to understand sports 'fanatics'. We can define 'fanaticism' as:

“An extreme and passionate behaviour toward a goal” 

And now for the technical bit. Josef Rudin, who wrote a good book on the topic, breaks down 'fanaticism' into two aspects: fanaticism as a problem of intensity and fanaticism as a problem of value-attitude.

The first aspect surrounds the perceived intensity, with Rudin linking intensity with excitement, rage, passion and loyalty. These characteristics clearly have synergies with how we could perceive a sports fan.

The second 'fanaticism' aspect is that of value-attitude.

“The values attached to the fanatic’s pursuit take on a meaning that allows them to reduce the value of other seemingly normal human needs”.

There is a sense of sacrifice with this concept. The quote explains how a fanatic often prioritises sport over other aspects of their lives, through characteristics such as number of memberships, miles driven, money spent and frequency of participation.

There is clearly evidence of 'fanaticism' in many areas of life. However, what makes sports organisations unique is the typically high percentage of true 'fanatics' in their customer base. Sport differs from other sources of entertainment by its evocation of high levels of emotional involvement and commitment. A quote from Sloan adds:

“Most sports viewers are not merely spectators, but rather are participants as the true believers who consume the almost religious ritual that is a sporting event”. 

There are more variables to assess, such as the specific sport, country, culture and overall situational performance of the club or organisation before we can conclude this, however.

 This scale identifies 8 different levels of sports fan. It is evident that only a few levels describe a true 'fanatic'.  However, most levels will have synergies with some characteristics of 'fanaticism'.

Milne & Mcdonald offer a different perspective and believe a small proportion of fans do not have emotional connection, high involvement or high commitment, meaning they cannot be classed as true fans.

So, while we can’t say that every football fan is a raving fan, or every golf fan is only a prospect, we can say that sport has the unique nature of having fans that attract some ‘fanatical traits’. And we can measure exactly what being a true fan actually is. The next time you are having an argument with your mate about who is the bigger supporter of your team, look at the characteristics of fanaticism and match them against your relationship with the team. The more you have the further up the scale you will sit. Are you a sporting suspect or a raving fan?

By Ben Warren

Thursday, 8 May 2014

AUDIO: My Speech at Employment Lecture

Hear my discussion at an employment event in Holland. Topics include priorities for students, changing from a student to an employee, interview techniques and more...

Click here to listen to the lecture

Monday, 7 April 2014

Could the Chromecast be the Perfect Partner for UK Sport?

Having experienced excellent figures at launch in the UK last month, Google's latest offering has formed a partnership with the BT Sport platform. If other companies followed suit, could this promote more freedom in the way fans consume sport?

The Google Chromecast is small device that slots into any UK television set via a HDMI port, and allows users to 'beam' content from any device, such as a tablet or PC, to their set-top box. According to Gigaom.com, U.K. electronics retailer Currys sold a Chromecast every 4.5 seconds on launch day, leading to comparisons with the launch of the iPad. 

BT Sport have clearly shown faith in the product, and believe that this could open up new sectors in the marketplace. Pete Oliver, managing director of BT's Consumer Commercial and Marketing, said, “Chromecast has been a tremendous success in the US and we feel it could take off in the UK as well. That is clearly a crucial factor here, and with an RRP of £30, it is clear Google are doing everything to make this a tool in everyone's household. 

The main excitement from the consumer perspective should come from increased freedom and accessibility. With Sport being such a lucrative package for television companies, tight restrictions are often in place with services such as Sky Go and Virgin Anywhere. These companies limit the number of devices you can watch on, and often only allow device changes at specified intervals. 

If these companies were to get on board with Chromecast, they would have to find a balance. Imagine having a mobile phone, for example, and beaming live Premier League action to any TV in proximity of the phone. Whether it be a friend’s house or a hotel room, one could replicate the traditional entertainment set-up at the touch of a button. 

If the past is anything to go by, BT Sport may be the only company willing to take a plunge into the Chromecast pool. Although the user would need a subscription to the service, they could argue it would be taken advantage of. If they decide to use the technology, however, the avenues to consume sport may just become that little bit wider. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Head in the Clouds (again)

Just thought I would re-share one of my most popular blog posts. As time has past, I feel the this entry is only becoming more relevant to student lives.

Head in the Clouds

Being a university student at present gives one a number of amazing technological opportunities.

The problem is, it seems that they are being totally ignored by at least 95% of students. There are many who moan and groan about how difficult organisation and efficiency is, with so many distractions that are thrown at them.

The technology is out there to make our lives as students much easier! When describing the benefits of such programs, the response is often that of caution. Will it make any difference? Will it be easy to set up? Will I still be using it after a week? The answer to all these questions will more than likely be YES!

It is amazing to think it has been two years since my university career began, and how technology has changed the way I operate as a student. All of my work is now online, in the "cloud", and there for me anywhere I go. No more "I forgot my USB stick" or "i'll have to email it to you". Let me share some information about two of the best bits of tech for a student to have.

The first, and the most important, is an online file sharing service. I use Dropbox myself, but there are many options available depending on personal preference. As a student, I can instantly back up any work I have done, and have it instantly transported across all of my devices. It is at its best when doing group-work. My number 1 tip for any student undertaking a group project is to get dropbox! Get everyone to get a free account, make a file that everyone can share with each other, and watch as group members can simultaneously update and view work from any member. Its that simple! Imagine a power point that everyone can add there own ideas to without having to email it around like playing pass the parcel.

The other tool that has been crucial for me is a tablet computer. I use an ipad, but there are now hundreds of options available at a variety of price points. The reason for this device is simple, when you go to lectures, it is your best friend! As well as being easy to transport, the tablet will let you write up simple notes, or even record the lecture if you are feeling lazy. After the lecture, upload everything wirelessly to Dropbox and there you have it. After time, you will automatically build an online portfolio of notes and work that is organised into simplistic folders, no paper or untidiness!

It really is a simple decision, it is time to get your head in the clouds!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Sports Marketing Charity Golf Day

Sports Marketing students at the University of Northampton gave a further example of the growing stature of the course by successfully planning and implementing a charity golf tournament.

The event, hosted at Collingtree Park Golf Club, brought together students and industry professionals to enjoy a round of golf on the championship course. This was then followed by an excellent buffet and presentation ceremony. The entire event was voluntarily organised by a team of first and second year students, in order to gain experience of the events management field.

Despite a wide variety of golfing ability, and some poor weather, the tournament was well received by everyone. Second year student and participant Kurt Spence said: “The event itself was put on very well; it will easily become an annual event with the success of such a great golf course, great food and great organisation.

“We all had a good experience, met some new faces and helped a charity. I was glad to be a part of it and will definitely be going next year.”

A 'handicap' system ensured a closely contested competition, with all profits made from the day going to the National Children’s Tumour Leukaemia Cancer Trust. After the positive responses, there are already plans in place to make this an annual event.

From a student perspective, the opportunity to embark in projects outside of the classroom will only help build confidence for the future, and second year student George Bailey said: “It was a challenging but rewarding experience being involved in the planning of the charity golf day.

“During my time at University I have helped organise other events, however, I have never worked in such a small team with such responsibility. From an organiser's perspective, I believe it was a great event and has promising scope to be improved next year.”

Monday, 13 May 2013

How should professional athletes use social media?

It is fairly common knowledge that the USA are far more advanced in the area of sport engaging with its fans. I wrote my dissertation on the relationship between sports fans and organisations, and the differences between the UK and the USA. My findings were quite interesting, and will be published on this blog in the coming weeks.

Another aspect of fan engagement is how athletes themselves engage with their fan base. Many stars take to social media, and have enormous followings, but fail to do anything with it.

Los Angeles Laker's Kobe Bryant is an example of an athlete going beyond the expected norm to build a stronger relationship with his fans. He uses Twitter to post personal information, and gives his fans something extra to what they might expect.

The full article about can be found here - http://bit.ly/12dgFk6

It's probably not a coincidence that he is based in the USA, where values of fan engagement are more prominent. The positive public relations and reputation this will give the Kobe Bryant brand will no doubt be sizable. One of the main criticism of current athletes is their perceived distance from normal society, and its actions like this that will help solve this.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Worst ever advert?

The is quite possibly the worst advert I have ever seen! From a branding perspective, how Lionel Messi has any synergy with the game of cricket is beyond me. Add this to a very poorly put together video, you have got yourself one bad advert!