The past year brought some big changes to the sports landscape. After a few months of lull finally, when live sporting events began the world over, the audience embraced them with open arms. From Olympics to Paralympics, Football to Super bowl big sports events were was watched with much gusto. Even in a country like India that typically picks cricket over anything else, the enthusiasm around global events like Tokyo Olympics 2020 and Paralympics was unprecedented.
These sporting fans turned to Twitter during live events as their second screen to learn what’s happening in real-time. “Fans are taking to Twitter as a virtual stadium as Twitter offers that interactive experience,” says Amrita Tripathi - Head, Content Partnerships - Twitter, India in an interview with Storyboard.
She adds, “Sports is an always-on conversation on the platform. It is a thriving community across sports. I think the Olympics was phenomenal. We did not just saw the Indian fan diaspora cheering for someone like Neeraj Chopra, he was one of the most mentioned athletes globally. In India, we often say ‘cricket is the king, but if we look at top sports for Twitter in India for Indian audiences it is cricket, it is football, it is WWE. It also allows brands to tap into these monumental waves of conversations and sentiments. It is also largely positive sentiment and brand-safe content that brands can also leverage.”
But, from live sports and empty stadiums for certain sports and people returning to stadiums for certain others, how was the audience engagement on Twitter for both these scenarios? Rahul Pushkarna - Head, Content Partnerships - Twitter, APAC says “Twitter can be a real bridge between the offline real-time experience and online. In addition to the conversation that you see on Twitter, we have the audience engaged with moments, polls, behind the scene. But, also when live games resumed we took it a step further for example starting with the Superbowl, we introduced confetti in the stadium which included heartfelt messages to frontline workers.”
Fans, players and frontline workers were able to see their Tweets printed on the official Super Bowl confetti.
Pushkarna adds “When WNBA season started we issued hoodies with a QR code which allowed influencers and players to tap and then it would tweet into messages about sports across Twitter. And then around the Olympics beyond offering people the iconic moments we also wanted to give social messages. So when it came to our heroic Paralympians we created #WeAre15 that brings highlights to 15 percent of the world that is disabled. That’s the thing about Twitter, it makes you enjoy and also makes you think.”
Speaking about the ongoing Indian Premier League Tripathi says how there are so many teams that are working on #CricketTwitter. “Whether it is our products team, whether it is our ‘partners’ team are all working on it. We have seen millions and millions of tweets on cricket. And especially when it comes to IPL you are rooting for your regional team, your home team and people are very passionate about that.”
And so are brands. As fans turn to Twitter to celebrate their favourite match moments and vent out about the slips and misses, brands too have stepped foot into the field to be a part of these engagements. And not just brands, cricket teams have also been connecting with fans on Twitter as they live-Tweet their reactions to every ball. “We have seen many innovations from partners, whether it is using ‘Spaces’, video or live, Polls to engage with the fans.”
For brands, Twitter also offers Amplify Sponsorships program. “This program includes some of the best broadcasters, publishers and creators who are creating premium video content that brands want to align with. For the most part brands are running their pre-roll assets as adverts in front of the video content in-stream. These are short video clips that work really well, in a non-disruptive way. In India, we do see there is a lot more demand for co-branded content. For example in India Twitter has Twitter has amplified sponsorship program with former cricketer Aakash Chopra through his Twitter account - @cricketakaash where he creates interactive content that is engaging.
Amplify Sponsorships program will also be extended to some of the big upcoming sporting events around the world, including the Australian Open starting in January to 2022 FIFA World Cup. “This global sports calendar is something we work with leagues, federations, broadcast networks individuals and athletes to drive this whole ecosystem of content for fans to engage with,” says Pushkarna.
(Edited by : Pradeep Suresh)