Following on from Ash Reads article on the Facebook and Twitter Premier League, I decided to take a look at one of our other major sports…cricket. Social Media is obviously something that the ECB are looking at as they recently posted the role of Social Media Executive onto LinkedIn and their site.
When it comes to the county cricket clubs though, the message does not seem to have filtered down. Some have Facebook and Twitter accounts which you can find links to if you look very hard on their club sites. Others are oblivious to the new platforms available and carry on regardless.
For my research I visited every county club website as well as diverting my attention to known players and the ECB. I also searched for them on the platform search engines to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and the results were pretty shocking. If we thought football was behind when it comes to social media then cricket is in the dark ages!
The first scary statistic is that out of the 18 teams 5 of them do not have an official presence of any kind. The second scary fact is that out of the 18 teams and taking into account Facebook fans (or friends) and Twitter followers the largest number for a club is 2,176!
Here is a full list of the clubs in England and Wales…..
*All numbers in the table were correct as of Friday 19th March 2010
With the massive potential that social media has tied with the problems cricket has always faced in connecting with fans and filling the stadia outside of England games, you would have thought it would have been a sport that would be embracing the new, low cost tools available.
But, with the backward perception that the sport has in public eyes are we surprised that they have failed to grasp the possibilities with both hands? Clubs have long been battling to gain lucrative international games to ensure they have enough money to keep going rather than their own club games.
One area I see that would be a great move would be to turn around the problems caused by the British weather. I have worked at games which should be popular but spectators have stayed at home because it looks like it may rain or it has rained that morning – the ground is then fine by game time but the damage has been done.
Here is a great opportunity to keep your fans engaged with regular updates on match days, to reassure them and interact with them. Many clubs run ticket offers, have merchandise to sell, international games to publicise and the biggest advantage cricket has is that the players are more approachable than in most sports.
Have the ticket manager, marketing manager, CEO and others on twitter posting updates and answering questions that relate to them rather than the PR person or mascot. Educate the players in how to use it and warn them about what not to say (they are still speaking as a club representative at the end of the day, much like talking to the TV or press). Add pictures, video and offers to your Facebook site, do chats with the players that fans can join in with and have fans them upload video and pictures.
Many fans grumble about how they cannot speak to the clubs, how they feel unheard and these damaging feelings only grow they don’t go away (especially with clubs becoming more commercial and less fan focused). Be active on Twitter and answer any grumbles people add which can be answered – this way you are winning over fans you may otherwise lose. This can be taken into context with any sport or organisation, not just cricket.
The Twenty20 version of the game could potentially lend itself better to social media than the longer version. Microphones have been introduced to select players for televised games so commentators can chat to them while playing. They also have more ‘engaging’ activity during the game, batsmen intro music, competitions for the best fan fancy dress and originally the hot tub! The activation possibilities with this form of cricket should be particularly interesting to all involved.
We could also look at what else fits into the statistical nature of cricket – mobile phone apps would be a great source of interaction and profit for clubs/ECB. It gives far more diversity than you can gain in a match programme and has the potential for sponsors and partners to piggyback on with offers and incentives – drinks promotions being an obvious one.
I did say at the start about my research into the ECB and top players. Currently the ECB Facebook site is run by their members club ‘Twelfth Man’ and has 9,719 fans which offers latest news, videos and photos. They also have a Twitter feed with 8,678 followers with latest scores and info on and some interaction – it’s a start but the emphasis has to be on connecting with fans and interactivity not pouring out the same content you see on the website.
On the subject of players I was even more surprised by the lack of activity by well known cricket names. Here are some of the results I found on official pages for Facebook and Twitter…
|Kevin Pieterson||No Facebook or Twitter Pages (several fake people pages but no fan page)|
|Andrew Flintoff||No Facebook or Twitter Pages (12,756 fans on unofficial page)|
|Graeme Swann||36,414 followers on Twitter|
|Paul Collingwood||9,201 followers on Twitter|
|Stuart Broad||No Facebook or Twitter Pages (6,543 fans on unofficial page)|
|Jonathon Agnew||31,305 followers on Twitter|
|Alastair Cook||No Facebook or Twitter Pages|
What do you think about the impact Social Media could have for cricket and other sports? Why do you think they have been unwilling to make the most of it so far?