The general consensus about 2020 is that it was quite terrible. Plans got cancelled, daily routine was disrupted and a lot of time was spent indoors. Pandemic aside, as an Indian Premier League (IPL) team, we were simply glad we played a season without any Covid-19 outbreaks bringing a halt to proceedings. On the field, Rajasthan Royals secured eighth position in the points table, but the achievements of the franchise on digital media in 2020 were quite monumental. With many fans restricted to staying indoors, our social media pages, website & app took centre-stage with innovative & creative content keeping them engaged in more ways than one.
At the dawn of 2020, we set out to get our fans closer to our players than ever before. While the IPL got indefinitely postponed in March due to the pandemic, we saw the lockdown months as an opportunity to not only keep our fans entertained, but also informed.
The lockdown meant an increase in eyeballs on phones and social media platforms. The Royals digital team came up with several properties to keep our fans engaged and informed – we like to call it ‘Infotainment’. The Royals Podcast, The Thinktank & ‘Mind Body & Soul’ webinars gave a glimpse of what the players were doing and going through during their quarantine. In addition to that, fans stood a chance to win cool Royals merchandise by playing the ‘Royal Games’ on our website in April & May.
We were all overjoyed when the BCCI announced that the IPL would be staged in the UAE. We knew the Royals Family were itching to get together, albeit in a bubble. Before the season got underway, our fans got a glimpse of life in the bubble and even the painstaking Covid-19 tests our boys had to undergo, thrice a week. Each of their training sessions & drills were covered with both long-form as well as short, snackable videos. After each game, our digital crew were allowed in the dressing room to capture all the raw emotions irrespective of the result of the match.
While the players had Dubai, Sharjah & Abu Dhabi as their playgrounds, the Royals digital team had Twitter. We always tweeted what we truly felt - like a fan, for the fan! Be it the Hyderabadi biryani or the ‘Key & Peele’ admin video, we raised the bar for ourselves throughout the season and fans kept expecting cool tweets, replies and banter from the Rajasthan Royals ‘admin’. Despite finishing 8th, we were only behind CSK and RCB on engagement rate during the season. The Royals’ new Twitter persona was born in 2020.
With 350 Million video views through the season, we justified our video-first strategy right through the year, whether it be the focus on quality long-form pieces, or quirky, entertaining snackable videos. Our content, on the whole, generated over 1.6Bn impressions on social media, as we reached more fans than ever before.
Linked to that was our launch on Sharechat, one of India’s fastest-growing social media apps. We became the first IPL team to launch on the platform, and crossed 300K fans during the season, with that number over half a million now. In all, we added over 1.1Mn fans to our social media following during IPL 2020.
YouTube was another platform where we saw phenomenal growth. The channel’s subscribers grew by 136% and we had the third highest number of video views among all IPL teams. Inside the hotel, on the beach, training drills and candid moments – fans got an insight into how the Royals Family bonded and prepared together during an IPL campaign. The most viewed video was when Rahul Tewatia went up against Shane Warne in a ‘Hit the Ball’ challenge in training – with 2.8 Million views and counting. A special and deserving mention goes to the leg-spin lessons from Imran Tahir to Riyan Parag after the CSKvRR game.
Sponsor integration was key to our content during the IPL as well. Branded content garnered engagement of nearly 400K with 14 Million impressions. The partnership with Niine Sanitary Napkins was ground-breaking in several ways, as we tried to build awareness and break misconceptions about periods. Our players were more than happy to volunteer, as they sent powerful messages to our fans. The Niine edition of the Royals Rapid Fire series saw some of our players step out of their comfort zone and answer questions on periods in a way they’d never done publicly before. Our new kit announcement was done through a stunning, innovative and unforgettable Red Bull surprise on the team hotel’s private beach.
The fan app is a vital platform for Rajasthan Royals. The upgraded version went Live before the season got underway, with a vibrant, new look and smooth fan experience. With new features like a chatroom, predictor game, wallpapers and a 3D AR that brought Jos Buttler and his scoop shot to life, the app had all things Royals in it. Fans could watch match videos & behind-the-scenes content and also shop for Royals merchandise on the app. Close to 1 Lakh fans downloaded the app during the season.
The Predictor Game, activated on each matchday, had the highest number of fan visits. With over 8 million predictions made through the season, the game saw as many as 70,000 unique fans participate. Over half a million messages were shared in the chatroom, which was active on non-matchdays as well.
Rajasthan Royals Chief Operating Office, Jake Lush McCrum has always believed that digital media has a key role to play in communication strategy and is excited with the results in 2020. “I was delighted to see the results our digital team achieved over the last 6 months with a strong video-first strategy. We maximised the reach for our partners, creating high quality, engaging content, while ensuring our fans were as close to the action as possible. To secure the third highest video views among all sports teams and leagues in the world in September, beating the likes of Premier League, NBA and Formula 1 teams is an incredible achievement. Furthermore, our Twitter content was voted the best in the IPL as we looked to differentiate our voice and focus on quality over quantity, with entertainment being the key pillar.”
With the IPL just a few months away, Rajasthan Royals will look to build on the momentum and keep the fans engaged in 2021 as well. “We will continue to build on the last season, ensuring our fans have a personalised experience on the app and various platforms, enabling maximum engagement. We will continue to innovate so that we differentiate our content and activations from all other IPL teams and sports teams around the world.”
While 2020 had its challenges and we did our best to keep our fans ‘infotained’, we hope that 2021 comes with more promise and more cricket as well. Happy New Year!