IPL 2021: Twitter declares, ‘conversation around IPL in warm-up months has increased by 63%’

IPL 2021: InsideSport exclusive: Neha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India talks about Twitter’s plans about brand growth during IPL
IPL 2021: InsideSport exclusive: Neha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India talks about Twitter’s plans about brand growth during IPL

IPL 2021: InsideSport exclusive with Neha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India – For a second straight year, the Indian Premier League (IPL) will be held behind closed doors despite its return to India due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country. As fans are kept out of stadiums, Twitter has become their new arena to converse about their favourite teams. Through its innovative offerings such as jersey emojis, watch parties, and spotlight, Twitter will enable them to be a part of IPL 2021’s bandwagon on its platform.

Be it MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings (CSK) whose popularity on Twitter remains intact despite a disappointing performance last season or conversations surrounding their match against Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians, fans will find something special this season.

However, it’s not just about cricket though. As Twitter has seen a whopping 63% increase in conversations related to IPL 2021 even before a ball has been bowled, it will also be an opportunity for brands to reach a broader audience using the platform especially with 89% of the cricket fans saying that they will be following the cricket season closely.

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In an exclusive interview with InsideSportNeha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India revealed the social media giant’s plans on the unique opportunities the platform has created for fans to have a more immersive experience of IPL 2021 and brands to reach them.

InsideSport exclusive: Neha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India talks about Twitter’s plans – Excerpts…

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How has the trend been in the last few years over cricket? Has it increased or has there been a dip in interest? 

Neha: Cricket has always been more than a sport in India, and Twitter makes it easier for people to keep informed about the latest cricket news, be a part of cricket conversations and form online cricket communities.

In fact, a recent Twitter research looking at trends, sub-cultures and attitudes on the service, suggests that 69% of all people on Twitter in India classify themselves as a cricket fan and 30% people describe themselves as a huge fan. Whereas, 51% of cricket fans on Twitter read posts about matches, players, news reports. This season, 25% of fans plan to engage with Tweets during the match and 31% of fans plan to watch videos and 25% of fans want to follow the teams on the service. With Twitter Topics gaining popularity with people, we also introduced dedicated Twitter Topics for cricket in 2020 that people could follow for the latest updates and news about their favourite teams.

During IPL and IPL auction, conversations generally tend to soar. How has the trend been in the last few years in regards to IPL?

Neha: IPL is one of the biggest sports moments of the year for Indian cricket fans on Twitter, and their popularity has only grown year on year. We saw a 23% increase in conversations around cricket leagues in 2020 when compared to 2019 — while cricket league conversations in 2019 had clocked a record-breaking 27 million Tweets in itself. Comparing the warm-up months of January-February last year to the same time this year, we see a 63% increase in related conversations on the service. In fact, as per a recent Twitter research, 67% of cricket fans in India excitedly look forward to the cricket season, whereas 89% of the huge fans share this sentiment.

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IPL 2021: InsideSport exclusive with Neha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India

Any particular IPL rivalry (match) that results in a high amount of engagement on Twitter?

Neha: All the eight teams have a great presence on Twitter. However, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) emerged as the most mentioned team for two consecutive years – 2019, as well as 2020. While all the matches are widely discussed on the service, the final of the 2019 season and the opening game last year between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, #MIvCSK, were the most Tweeted about matches in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, respectively.

Especially during a pandemic, how did the brands leverage the popularity of IPL on Twitter to engage and reach a broader audience? How is Twitter helping them in this regard?

Neha: During the pandemic, while stadiums remained quiet, Twitter became the virtual playground for cricketers and fans alike. Brands have been participating in these conversations. During last year’s cricket season, several brands partnered with Twitter and utilised the service’s offerings, as well as the booming cricket conversations, to connect with audiences.

A noteworthy case is that of Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia). To ensure viewership for matches on the channel, Star Sports used Twitter’s Heart-to-Remind functionality to send personalised reminders to people for the opening match of the tournament. The Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI) also leveraged cricket’s popularity to educate fans on the how-tos and whys of mutual funds through a series of videos and creatives.

IPL 2021: InsideSport exclusive with Neha Sharma Katyal, Business Head – West and South at Twitter India

How Twitter is helping brands stay relevant or stand out in the ocean of conversations around cricket/IPL?

Neha: In India, where cricket is such a huge passion point, Twitter serves as the go-to space for people to follow and join the conversation in a massive volume. Several Twitter features make it easier for people to discover and be a part of cricket conversations. Twitter emojis launched for the cricket leagues are triggered by hashtags in several Indian languages, allowing for fans to join conversations in the language of their choice

Owing to the momentum of conversations inspired by these features, Twitter undoubtedly is a pool of opportunities for brands to dive right in. Twitter’s conversational nature, its receptive and pro-active audiences, and its customisable ad-suite make it the best place for brands to engage with their customers at. In addition to features like custom brand emojis, watch parties, takeover formats like the Promoted Trend Spotlight and the likes, conversational formats like the Heart-To-Remind, Twitter Polls, Conversation Cards, and several others, allow brands to stay looped into the conversation and thus stay relevant with their audiences by participating when the conversation is warm and ripe.

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Any innovative offerings by Twitter for brands to reach and engage audiences through cricket?

Neha: There certainly is massive scope for brands to optimise conversations around sporting events when aided by Twitter’s ad offerings. Twitter offers a customisable ad-suite that brands can choose from based on their purpose. Whether a brand wants to launch a new property or just connect with customers around the excitement of a match- there’s a gamut of options to pick from.

Branded reminders are a great way for brands to acquire/gather an audience for live events – whether it’s a big launch, a virtual showcase, or a broadcast. Through the feature, brands can send personalised reminders to those who opt-in for it and ensure maximum attendance for the event. Brands often couple this with a Twitter takeover via the Promoted Trend Spotlight – which places the brand’s message/event at the premium real estate of Twitter’s Explore tab — promising optimised visibility and impact.

Watch parties allow brands to curate a whole viewing experience for their audience on Twitter – supplementing the excitement of the match with live Twitter conversations to keep the excitement levels high and the conversation rolling. 

Engagement formats like Twitter polls, conversation cards, etc. also enable brands to participate in conversations as well as loop people in to engage with the tweets.