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, 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