Where does cricket go from here? Meet the Head of Digital at the ECB, Fiona Staines

Profile

Fiona has 10 years of digital marketing experience across multiple rights holders and joined the ECB in 2015 before taking up the role of Head of Digital.

With a priority to grow cricket’s reach and relevance and be the front door to the game, Fiona’s role is integral to ensuring the success of the ECB’s ambition to have a generation inspired to say that “cricket is a game for me”.

There are currently 10 million followers across the ECB channels, and the ECB’s Digital Team is essential in continuing to build those relationships as well as expanding the reach of cricket into new audiences.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I’ve been at the ECB for nearly four years and as Head of Digital I am responsible for the delivery and operationalisation of the ECB’s Digital and Data Strategy by creating a tailored product, content and distribution offering for each key audience in cricket – from the core cricket fan/player to someone who has never watched a game. My interests lie in combining physical with digital experiences to support our ambition to make our digital offering the front door to the game.

How did you get into the world of cricket?

Prior to the ECB I worked at the Lawn Tennis Association across a whole spectrum of digital – from content, to product to channel management. I have always loved sport and wanted to stay working in it. When I started working in cricket, a newly created digital team had been formed, and it was our job to create the foundations of ECB digital. Over a few years, we went from limited digital capability, to having a combined following of 10m across our social channels, to becoming the No.1 cricket Youtube channel in the world (we are currently number 3 as the ICC and Cricket Australia overtook us) to digital becoming central to commercial partnership rights delivery.

What was your take on the cricket World Cup?

To be able to say that our England Men’s and Women’s teams are World Champions is incredible and a testament to the hard work from many across the game.

From a digital perspective, I think the World Cup was a great example of how we leveraged a global tournament to engage with a variety of audiences (particularly younger audiences), challenge the perceptions of cricket and support player recall during the men’s Cricket World Cup.

Express Yourself was the overarching Cricket World Cup marketing campaign for England Cricket, which framed our content output and product delivery. The campaign, co-created with Eoin Morgan, ran from Thursday 23rd May across cinema, out of home, paid digital media, earned PR and owned digital channels. As of Sunday 14th July, the paid online digital advertising element of the campaign had delivered over 52 million impressions, 2.6 million completed video views and 6.2m engagements.

We also gained nearly half a million new followers on our owned channels with some posts reaching 30 million people.

During the group stages of the Cricket World Cup, we released a content series called “Squad Battles” which was the always on organic series laddering up to the wider Express Yourself campaign.

Leveraging the access and relationships our digital team had built with the England Team over the last few years, an 8-part challenge series was created where members of the England team “battled” against each other to avoid the forfeit of giving Trevor a hug. Full series here: https://www.ecb.co.uk/video/1233093/squad-battles-episode-1-team-jason-vs-team-mo?tagNames=Squad%20Battles&title=Get%20ready%20for%20Squad%20Battles

Gaining access to the pitch and the dressing room after the winning moment was the point of difference for us as, providing a unique perspective of the winning moment in comparison with other outlets.

Working with the ICC, we were able to film behind the scene footage on the pitch and create a video which captured the raw emotion from the England team. Again, by leveraging a well-established relationship, the players opened up to the digital team in an honest and fresh way.

Full video here: https://www.ecb.co.uk/video/1280927

In the days following the final, we leveraged the winning moment as a platform to speak about the ECB’s wider strategy. From Inspiring Generations (ECB’s plan to grow the game over the next five years), to highlighting inclusivity and diversity and promoting opportunities to play, through digital, we were able to showcase how cricket can inspire.

Where does Cricket go from here? 

2019 has been a landmark year – from an ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup on home soil, to the men’s and women’s Ashes and a Physical Disability World Series, this summer has given us a great opportunity to inspire a generation of future fans and players to grow the game. Over the next five years we will be investing more money than ever before into growing the game.

Digitally we are using the great foundations which have been built over the last four years to step up and start tailoring our content, product and distribution offering to our key audiences. The sports consumer landscape is changing – we’re not only in competition with other sports, we’re also in competition with the likes of Fortnite and Twitch, so we need to adapt accordingly.

What major problems does the sport face?

There are about 1 million people in this country attending cricket games, but we know there are actually 10m cricket fans and 25 million sports fans in the UK. We already have three great formats of the game servicing the needs of the 1 million, but how do we reach the rest? Our core cricket network is hugely important and that will never change, and we also need to look at ways to diversify and grow the game.

 The Hundred will play a major role in this by appealing to both core cricket fans and wider, diverse audiences by making the game shorter and presented in a simpler way. From a digital perspective, we have the opportunity to differentiate our digital offering from traditional coverage. However this throws up its own challenges. Starting with a blank slate is fantastic, but it is just that – a blank slate. At the start of the year we had no content, no digital products, limited CRM capability … it was hard to know where to start!  

As such we carried out some extensive research with ESPN Solutions who have helped shape our digital strategy for The Hundred. By being audience first, we believe we have created a roadmap which will engage existing cricket fans, but also those who are more on the periphery of the sport.

Are you fancying England to win the Ashes and complete the perfect summer?

Of course! The game at Headingley was a true testament to how exciting cricket can be, showcasing the personalities and talent which surface through the game. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out at Old Trafford.

The next Digital Sport London event will take place at Lord’s Cricket Ground on September 9th. We’ll be talking about the future of cricket with Fiona Staines – ECB, Owen Hughes – Nissan, Chris Hurst – ex-BBC and ICC, Andy Muggleton – MCC and Stephen Lyle – BBC. 

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