We don’t need to sell cricket, it’s the No. 1 sport, says Gaurav Thakur, ESPN

Thakur, Director, Business Development, along with Sambit Bal, Editor-in-Chief, ESPN Cricinfo, talks about focus on original content and marketing strategies

by Anjali Thakur
Published - Jan 23, 2019 8:38 AM Updated: Jan 23, 2019 8:38 AM
ESPN

The year 2019 is going to be a stellar year for cricket as the year will witness sporting extravaganzas IPL and ICC Cricket World Cup. Gaurav Thakur, Director, Business Development and Head of Marketing, ESPN India and Sambit Bal, Editor-in-Chief, ESPN Cricinfo spoke to exchange4media about the focus on original content, marketing strategies and how they are going to push their limits in offering total game coverage. 

Edited excerpts: 

2019 will witness back-to-back tournaments. What is ESPN’s strategy? 
Sambit Bal: The different approach perhaps in this ICC Cricket World Cup or IPL is that we are taking both the mobile-first and multi-platform approaches. Also, we will not compromise on credibility and just not do stories for the clicks.  The challenge is how we tell the same story but differently. We will cater to every cricket fan in the world. 
Gaurav Thakur: Stories resonate with every cricket fan. It’s just that their way of consuming content is different because of the nature of the very platform. We have been looking at engaging audiences across all age groups. 

Content discovery has become important as brands go local. With the rise of micro influencers, what are the plans for sports content? 
Sambit Bal: We are strong in every local market. ESPN Cricinfo is a global site but strongly localised. We have got 10 different homepages. When a World Cup happens, we have local writers from each country writing about their country’s cricket. Localisation is personalisation. We have the best personalisation in our app, so if you want to know the news about RCB or Mumbai Indians you will get other news but this news will get elevated for you. 
Gaurav Thakur:  We work on the algorithms every day and make sure the content that surfaces for you is relevant for you. It is an ongoing process, where we are constantly thinking and in the next few months you will see more product updates. The more you use the app, the app will understand you better. We have AI build into it.  

What are the steps being taken for IPL and ICC Cricket World Cup 2019? What kind of content will the audience witness? 
Gaurav: We will focus on a lot of video push, which will tell the audience what’s happening during the game, in terms of preview, post-match updates and also in terms of digital shot, which summarises what is happening during the IPL or the World Cup. Also, we are in talks for a partnership. We will do fun challenges with players, cricket book challenge etc.  We want to make ‘snackable’ content for our audience. 

There has been growth in spends for digital advertisers. What was the percentage of increase in 2018? 
Gaurav Thakur: We have seen a huge increase in the number of audiences. Users have been consuming more content and also spending more time on it. And all of this is very lucrative for advertising brands and if you see the numbers you will see increase in family audience. 

Cricket as a sport is extremely critical for most advertisers. With 20-20 drawing the family audience, no advertiser wants to be away from it. Advertisers are pretty gung-ho about the two big events. There is tremendous growth in spends for digital advertising from broadcasters to digital platforms. 

What is the go-to market strategy in India?  
Gaurav Thakur: You don’t need to sell cricket, it’s the number 1 sport. We’re looking at the newer audience who are in the 15 to 17 age group. A number of them have been skipping the desktop experience and consuming content on their mobile devices. We are working towards making the experience worthwhile for the younger fans as well, whether it requires tweaking the content or packaging it differently or using certain marketing parameters through events. We need to get younger fans hooked on to the platform. 

 

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