#YourPeople in Sport: A discussion with Cricket Scotland’s Paul Macari

How is Cricket Scotland developing their next generation of athletes and connecting with fans through digital? We checked in with Cricket Scotland’s Commercial Manager, Paul Macari.

Scotland celebrates the wicket of West Indies batsman Chris Gayle at Harare Sports Club. Picture: AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

Cricket Scotland, the national governing body of Cricket in the country is driving growth of the sport in Scotland through an omnichannel approach and building community through various touchpoints with their audience.

A newly created national membership program, a new match day experience, a redesigned website, increased community engagement and the exceptional growth of social channels have all had a high impact on the growth of the community around the sport in Scotland. In our conversation with Cricket Scotland’s Commercial Manager, Paul Macari, we dove into the future of Cricket Scotland and what’s going to continue to accelerate the growth of Cricket.

First off, what do you define as “Community” and what does that mean to Cricket Scotland?

Paul Macari: Our definition of community and our audience is broken up by a couple of different environments: The Local communities (schools, clubs, etc..) our digital audience, our member program. Basically, anyone who touches the game from the time they pick up a bat at age five until they’re a professional athlete; our audience is hugely diverse within that world.

What are some of the ways that you influence youth and grow the sport; and thus grow the community?

PM: Every channel has its strengths and weaknesses. Digital and social is strong at some, but not all. We also have representatives in the community interacting and engaging with the youth through tournaments, events, and other activations.

Because cricket is not a mainstream sport in Scotland (Football and Rugby are more popular) our key in digital is engaging and discovering new audiences on large platforms leveraging network effects. It’s easy for us to talk with cricket fans and current supporters, but we want to drive more people to watch games, play the game, and feel pride every single time that Scotland takes the pitch.

The volume of our digital output has increased dramatically and that has lead to the majority of growth on digital. For example, we’ve gone from one to eight twitter accounts, to support all of the different sub brands and audiences that have formed in recent years.

The birth of new social accounts ranges anywhere from a new matchday experience, the formation of the women’s team or even a new series of games leveraging commercial partnerships.

Are there programs that you run to convert fans on social into a “captured” fan and leverage that for business purposes?

PM: Although we speak to hundreds of thousands of fans on social, we’re well aware that a lot of those fans are from Asia and are unlikely to come to our games.

We’re more direct to connect with the fans that are most likely to show up for a game. Direct email list, mailing programs, and a few membership programs. So our social programs are merely just the first touch point we have with the aim of converting those folks into members which is a deeper point in our funnel.

The more events that we create and introduce, the more we leverage the connections with our member programs. Because membership programs are our most highly engaged users they’re the most likely to attend events and buy tickets; so we aim to drive more members.

What are some of the big challenge that you’re starting to face, or are continuing to face in the current commercial and digital landscape?

PM: Aside from the budget challenge? 🙂 We’re a national governing body, so we’re funded by a number of different organizations and our focus is highly on driving participation and we place an emphasis on leveraging digital for help to drive participation. One challenge with digital is all the other things out in the world that grab the attention of the people we want to connect with.

From a commercial perspective, we’re also challenged with the landscape of current digital and the limited number of commercial opportunities. Revenue is currently limited to the places that we exist in; now, that’s definitely an opportunity — to exist in more places — but we need a bit more bandwidth to accomplish that. We do an exceptional job of boxing above our weight, but there’s always more you can do.

We also face some challenges in the sponsorship market. The space is really tough to operate in and we‘re limited by how many matches are currently televised for example which can be a big challenge to drive increased viewership. All of those buckets are interwoven with one another. Increased viewership drives more sponsorship and the loop drives growth. This has presented us the opportunity, however, to digitally stream more matches and take the broadcast distribution into our own hands and make it easier for fans to watch cricket.

What are you excited for this year? What’s to come for Cricket Scotland in 2019?

PM: We had our most successful year in 2018 to-date. The flip side is the presentation of new challenges because you only want to move forward; not back. This year we’re really excited about quite a few things:

  • World Cup qualifiers for our Men’s and Women’s teams with some really big international matches; at home and away.
  • Four to five new formats of the game (new products) that we launched last year. The inaugural year last year was successful and we’re looking to build on that.
  • Our first ever awards dinner that’s launching in a couple of months time.
  • A new membership program that we’re slightly changing and re-launching in a new format for 2019 that coincides with a new match day digital experience for fans to take in match day in a new way for games this year.

What does the future of engagement look like for Cricket Scotland? Where is and where should fan engagement go?

PM: If you look at Big Bash or IPL, NBA for example.. some of these organizations have massive budgets and the fan interaction is fantastic on match day. I do however believe that Cricket is actually at the forefront of fan connections when it comes to sport and match day engagement.

Some big matches ahead for Cricket Scotland in 2019 putting the team on an international stage.

If you look at Football, there’s little-to-no fan interaction at the event itself. At a Cricket match, if a fan catches a ball they win a prize! The entertainment like that happening during a match breeds more and more fan engagement.

A big thank you to Paul Macari and Cricket Scotland for this discussion! To follow Paul or connect with him and the rest of the Cricket Scotland team check out the work they’re doing on social: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Read more expert and client interviews here.

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Jeremy Ross

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