Then and Now
Go back a few years in time and you would find cricket buffs either with their eyes glued to the television or their ears stuck to the radio during a tournament. The 2011 World Cup, however, witnessed a spurt of activity in the social media space. It was not only Facebook and Twitter that registered heavy cricket commentary, but small players like soch.la and simplycricket.net also saw fans discussing the match with gusto. Yahoo, in partnership with the International Cricket Council (ICC), launched iccevents.yahoo.com, the official site to ICC World Cup 2011. The content on the Yahoo site included the ‘commontweeter’, where a consolidated view of Twitter updates from fans and top cricketers across the world was added.
The Cricket World Cup was found to dominate nearly all social media discussions in cricket playing nations. Anticipating this, official media sponsors and advertisers entered social media conversations and interacted with fans to ensure that their respective brands stood out in the digital space. For instance, Reebok launched a three-pronged digital marketing activity for the event. The company announced plans to increase the share of digital marketing in its overall marketing budget in 2011, from 5% in 2010, to 30% this year.
Data compiled by Google Trends has revealed that the average worldwide web traffic of the World Cup increased significantly over the years. With regard to the search volume index, the difference was marginal; however, the news reference volume saw an large increase for the 2011 World Cup.
Conversation Volume and Sentiment on Social Media
According to research conducted by Position², for the time period between 19th January 2011 and 2nd April 2011, the team that registered the largest conversation volume on social media platforms was India (199,049), closely followed by Pakistan (110,854) and then England (107,456), making them the three most popular teams that were discussed. Further team comparisons show that the volumes were lowest for Netherlands at 26,178.
Further analysis for the Cricket World Cup 2011, by the Brand Monitor™ team shows that the conversational tone on blogs largely remained positive. After analyzing the discussions, the data shows that:
- Conversations with positive tonality were registered at 50%. (Fans cheering their teams on)
- 10% of the people voiced negative opinions (Complaints about players, infrastructure, team strategy)
- 40% chose to remain neutral
Data populated by Brand Monitor™ also revealed that cricket fans mostly chose Twitter to focus their discussions, exchange trivia etc. There was also significant spike in blog conversations, discussions on various forums and news in general on 2nd April 2010, during the finals. Volumes (Twitter, Blogs, News, Forums) were recorded at a whopping 32,639 when India and Sri Lanka played the finals. The semi-finals between India and Pakistan recorded the 2nd highest (20,274) in terms of conversation volumes registered.
Social media buzz during the World Cup was largely centered on Twitter, closely followed by various blogs and forums. Conversations taking place in real time immensely added to volume, especially on Twitter. Additionally, top cricketers from across the world were engaging in conversations with fans.
Compared to the last Cricket World Cup in 2007, activity in the social media space went up by leaps and bounds during the 2011 World Cup. The biggest reason for this is the growth of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter that function as a stage for cricket fans and players to exchange views.
With the growth of smaller social media platform players in this space and with the convenience provided by the bigger players such as Facebook and Twitter, cricket fans are increasingly hooked to their computer screens or mobile phones, while not altogether shunning traditional media.
What the sponsors of such sporting events need to realize is that social media platforms are the next big thing. Yahoo, the official sponsor of the event, rightly tapped Twitter to launch the ‘commontweeter’ site, a commendable move. Meanwhile, other media sponsors and advertisers changed their marketing strategies for the event; instead of solely depending on traditional media, they have started to include social media as part of their marketing plan.
What remains to be seen is how this new strategy will unfold in the years to come, but we are quite sure next World Cup in 2015 will see a further exponential growth in social media conversations.