Competing online in India’s emerging sports ecosystem: Nikhil Arora, GoDaddy
Guest Column: Nikhil Arora, VP & MD, GoDaddy India, takes us through the key elements of building an online presence and how they can help an emerging sports brand
The National Sports Education Board announced as part of the government’s 2019 budget, is a great initiative for deepening the reach of sports in the country. On the ground too, we have been seeing a rapid increase in local sports academies and clubs, investments by international franchises setting up grassroots camps, and smaller leagues and championship events being organised across formats like football, tennis, cricket and more. Sports consumption patterns are encouraging too, with Indian viewership growing rapidly across social, gender and geographical divides; between 40-47% of sports content is consumed by rural India, while almost 1/4th of the major league viewership is women.
What this means for sports players, teams and academies is a fast growing ‘marketplace’ where they must compete for revenue, following and sponsorships. And a lot of this competition will take place online, with websites, content, and social media presence being the equipment of choice. We’re seeing this in other developed nations as well, where local clubs invest seriously in building an online presence for themselves as well as their players. As a starting point, the digital presence of some of our own elite teams and players are great examples to study. True, a lot of their online success can be attributed to having the resources and experts to get it right, plus the huge exposure of playing in games that are watched by millions. But some great lessons of building an online presence lie beyond these aspects. Having a great story to tell, authenticity, creative and consistent connect, and the savvy to learn about the digital tools that make it all happen – these are more than enough to make a great start in the game online. Let’s look at the key elements of building an online presence, and how they can help an emerging sports brand.
For sports clubs, academies and teams, their website should be the digital ‘home’: all their outreach and online marketing efforts should lead back there. Real Madrid, one of the most valuable club brands in the world of football, offers a great case study in how they have placed their website at the centre of their efforts to raise fan following, drive revenue (ticket sales, merchandise), attract talent to their grassroots training camps, and more. While online tools and platforms make it very easy and affordable for a sports brand to create their own website, its effectiveness lies in setting your objectives clearly. Where are you placed today in terms of your size, geographical reach, performance? What are the strengths you can highlight? What are your immediate requirements for success – better talent? Stable sponsorships? Or do you already have a success story but need to grab eyeballs and make some noise to get to the next level?
The answers to these questions will determine your main target audience, your search engine optimisation (SEO) and online marketing strategy. Investing in simple SEO tools can help you optimise your site for the right keywords, and boost your search rankings higher. Finally, select the features your website will need keeping your objectives in mind: whether it is getting registrations for your camps; getting queries from potential sponsors; selling merchandise or promoting your media presence.
Content is the fuel that online marketing runs on. You need to be committed to creating a regular stream of good quality updates that can keep existing followers engage and attract new ones. Here again, your immediate objectives will define the nature of content. For example, if you are an amateur club looking to attract new talent and participate in more tournaments, locally-focused content about newer venues to play at, team photos to highlight the social/fun/fitness aspects would help along with the usual training and match videos. And it may be easy to assume that you need frequent content updates to keep engagement going. However, if you’re handling content marketing in-house, you should focus on quality rather than quantity. Set yourself a pace, and stick to it with updates featuring good quality images or video and original text, always keeping it real and relevant.
Probably the most visible aspect of your online presence, social media channels are a great way to multiply reach and engagement. But to ensure that you are actually reaching newer audiences across platforms, ensure that you have other people talking about your brand as well. This is where supporting your players in building their own profiles online can work as a win-win strategy. Individual players can sometimes generate a much stronger connect with followers, and can raise the profile of the entire team – we have strong examples of this in players like Mithali Raj and Sunil Chhetri. Social media also needs you to get creative to tap into topics of interest that can be associated with your sport. Pop quizzes, news, and commentary on major games with regional or local flavours, are all ways to generate interaction on social media.
When competing for fan engagement, or sponsorship deals, a sports brand is no different than a business. For all emerging ‘sportspreneurs’ as well as players therefore, acing the online competition for eyeballs can be a real game changer.
(The author, Nikhil Arora is Vice President and Managing Director of web hosting company GoDaddy India)
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com
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