The Covid pandemic has not been easy for rights holders, particularly in the sports industry. The shutdown of sports and fan attendance posed many questions about how sports teams will cope. We undertook some research to delve deeper into the sport specific coping mechanisms. Giving you an inside look into how cricket clubs are reacting to the challenges that are coming about as a result of the Covid pandemic. Adapting and changing to the quickly changing environment to not only survive but redefine the future of the sport altogether.
Keeping partnerships on show
In order to showcase their partnerships during a time of no fan attendance cricket clubs have had to take an innovative approach, creating new digital assets for both existing and new partners. Redistributing the potentially lost value back to sponsors through these newly created assets. Clubs have also focussed on enhancing commercial rights through live streaming and content creation and introducing their own commentary teams gave clubs full editorial control of their content and messaging. Using these branding and content opportunities allows the rights holders to continue to bring value to their sponsors, and by doing so, building a new commercial proposition for the future.
Hospitality assets are more difficult to replace. Most clubs opted to roll these over to 2021, instead offering alternative assets to sponsors. The value of digital assets can be “very subjective” when compared to a contracted asset, depending very much on partner business objectives, and therefore cricket clubs have had to remain flexible, with continual conversations to make sure alternative efforts were effective.
Interacting with fans
Digital assets were key to keeping interaction with fans high, focusing mostly on social media channels to keep fans engaged with the club and entertained. As well as maintaining engagement through increasing exclusive content for both fans and members. These interactions came in many forms including online quizzes and purposeful player videos designed specifically for children, adults or for a cause.
With fans out of stadiums, video streaming of games allowed the clubs to bring the cricket to them. Fan interaction in its simplest form is through watching the games and this allowed them to continue to do so from their homes, also giving sponsors exposure to the fans despite not being in the actual ground.
A joint effort
Mutual understanding has allowed partners and rights holders to relate to each other. Every business has been affected in some way by Covid so there are sensitivities on both sides. Ultimately it is a joint effort, with support and understanding on both sides rights holders and their partners are able to ride the challenges better. Partners that have benefited from Covid have been supportive to the cricket clubs, whilst in turn the clubs have been supportive to other partners that have been adversely affected.
The key form of support came in terms of maintaining partnerships. For the clubs this involved validating the partnerships and taking a relationship first approach to agreements, as well as being open to discussions as to how best to get through the pandemic together. The continual commitment from sponsors has helped with the financial stability of clubs. Monetary support that has allowed clubs to ride the wave of losses from postponed games and no fan attendance. Which should help for a more promising future out of the pandemic.
Cricket rights holders believe that they are in a much better position now to deal with the Covid challenges than they would have been 10 years ago. Advancements in technology have allowed rights holders to better engage with members and fans. Through the use of social media, clubs have been able to gain access to their fans whilst fixtures are being played behind closed doors. On top of this, video call platforms have helped for better communication, helping to maintain both internal and external relationships. Aside from technology, cricket clubs are in a much better position financially than they were 10 years ago. The increased commercialisation of the sport combined with more control of broadcasting rights for domestic cricket has helping clubs to bring in the capital to cope with the challenges much better than they would have previously.
Impacting the future of the sport
There was no doubt amongst cricket clubs that behaviours are likely to change for the long term following the pandemic. A period of time that has brought about a need for innovation and acceleration. The recent acceleration of digital assets has been enhanced by the need to interact with fans no longer in physical attendance. From this long distance interaction, fans now have more accessibility to behind the scenes content and the players. The trend for fans to “have it all at their fingertips” has been in process for a while but this situation has sped it up.
From no fans allowed to some fans allowed, Covid has had a big impact on fan experience in grounds. The recent introduction of fans back into stadiums has meant that clubs have had to create a safer experience for fans, and with it has come increased costs for the rights holder. This whole process is likely to have a major impact on how sold out stadiums will operate in the future. The pandemic will not change the attraction of live sport, people will continue to want to experience sport in its live format and once public confidence returns people will return to stadiums in full capacity with optimal experience.
A time to reflect and move forward
It has been a difficult time for many. Thousands of people in the sports industry have had their lives and careers adversely affected by Covid. However there are positives that can be taken out of the situation. The period of time has allowed rights holders to take stock of how they operate, including how they engage with fans and partners. Allowing them to be better moving forward and to be better prepared if a similar situation happens again.
One big positive is the loyalty and commitment of all those involved within the clubs. It has been an unknown time for club staff but they have found new ways to work, stepping up to ensure that the club continue to operate at its best. Commitment and loyalty from members who have supported clubs, not only through helping with financial security but also through continuing to tune into live streams, has highlighted the importance of fans to the sport. Fans are the “lifeblood of the game” and make live sport the spectacle that it is. Sponsors have also shown this loyalty and commitment through being understanding of the challenges, allowing clubs to redistribute value to digital where possible and committing to changed contracts to stay in partnership with the club.
The Covid pandemic has definitely changed the way clubs operate. Through forcing clubs to diversify their assets beyond traditional hospitality, events and branding opportunities, cricket clubs have opened up a world of new opportunity and innovation. The use of digital assets to connect with fans has driven increased online audiences across different channels and with it created more exposure for their sponsors. Over this time partnerships, on both international and local levels, have been reinforced with the fact that the relationship is just as, if not more, important than the contracts that underpin them.