Durham’s fightback begins off the pitch

It was brutal. After accepting £3.8m in financial aid from the ECB last year, Durham’s punishment was relegation and a points deduction in all three formats of the game. The county’s life as a Test match host is over and their salary cap will be scrutinised more than any other club in the country. English cricket’s governing body has made a ruthless example of them.

But hope is far from lost. Whilst many counties opt to shop abroad, Durham’s academy is the finest in the country. From IPL record signing Ben Stokes to debutant centurion Keaton Jennings, they are producing England players at a rate only bettered by Yorkshire. And despite their financial predicament, the club’s players are committed to bouncing back under the captaincy of Paul Collingwood.

Whilst Durham’s return to Division One will be determined on the pitch, the rebuilding process has already begun online. Cricket isn’t exactly famed for its modernity, but Durham’s recent digital output is raising the bar. We sat down with the club’s marketing team to understand their plans for bringing the county back from the brink.

How did you feel when the ECB sanctions were announced?

“Everyone connected with the club was clearly surprised and shocked at the sanctions, but we all knew immediately that we had to get ourselves off the floor and begin to build again”, said Luke Bidwell, Digital & Communications assistant at Durham CCC.

“That included everyone from top to bottom at the club, and we had conversations immediately about how to shape the comms at that moment.

It was then that the idea of #BounceBackTogether took place, the Tweet went out that night and had a huge impact on social media. It was at this point we discovered not only that #BounceBackTogether would become a wider theme as we headed towards a new season, but also that social media could be a huge player in this respect.”

How important is social media in your marketing strategy?

“Social media has become hugely important. My role is a relatively new title for the club and we are strategically looking at the way we use social media.

Rather than putting Tweets out on a whim or for the sake of it, we put depth and thought into what we do, ensuring that we’re pushing the right messages at the right time and utilising the extensive multimedia we’ve started to collate.

Our video content has increased significantly and we’ve now advanced that further by analysing the metrics & trends to curate content that will boost shares, likes and interactions on our channels. As you might expect, our behind-the-scenes videos do exceptionally well, be it in the nets or during outdoor practice. Always leave the camera rolling during training – you never know what happens & the unexpected video will always be a piece of incredible action!”

“We now monitor numbers on all of the content we put out and it’s been very encouraging to see the plans producing results; for example, on Twitter during January & February this year, we had already eclipsed the number of impressions from the first quarter of 2016.

As a marketing team, we have also integrated sales messages into content people find engaging. Rather than post a straightforward Tweet about buying tickets to our international in September, we engage people with relevant content – it could be Jason Roy whacking balls out of the park, or Ben Stokes talking about his rivalry with Marlon Samuels – to make them feel a sense of anticipation and excitement.

We have the infrastructure to make emotive, engaging content and constant analysis is taking place about how we can continue to improve in this regard. We want to provide our members and supporters with what they want to see; if we can pinpoint exactly what that is, our channels will only grow better for it.”

Durham’s strategy is already working. Early bird membership sales are up for the first time in 8 years, and England’s T20 clash against West Indies in September looks set to be a sell-out. The county is bouncing back online, now it’s just up to the players to restore the club to its former glory on the pitch.  

About author

Toby Marriott
Toby Marriott 91 posts

Toby is an Account Executive at Snack Media and Editor of Digital Sport. Follow him on Twitter @TobyMarriott

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