If you are over 35 years old you may not be a TikTok user. But if you are a cricket fan you probably will be soon. Having already purchased the lead sponsor’s rights to both the Pakistan Super League and also the Pakistan v Australia Test series, the Chinese-owned video-platform are undoubtedly looking to expand their presence in the cricket world. Why? Because cricket has a potential audience of over 2 billion people, that’s why. Start with the vast south-Asian diaspora and grow from there. Apart from its long history, this is cricket’s greatest asset.
This development is potentially good news for English cricket. Rugby bosses have already seen TikTok’s potential. You may have seen the company’s banners round stadiums during the Six Nations. You might even have watched some of the ‘favourite moments’ in the history of the tournament, displayed on the platform which then allows you to swipe straight to the Guinness Six Nations site hosting a ton of excellent rugby action.
There’s a multitude of opportunities for cricket here. For a start it’s a new free-to-air channel for the game. All sport is now visualizing its need to grow its audience through the FTA medium – viz both Emma Raducanu’s appearance in the US Open final snapped up by Channel 4 and their recent acquisition of matches in rugby’s Betfred Superleague. Sky have exclusive rights to England’s summer Tests and one day matches, of course, but cricket is a perfect fit for TikTok. It is essentially a game of 20 second ‘events’ (that is roughly how long a ball takes to be delivered, hit to the boundary – or caught - and replayed in slow motion.) It may sound sacrilegious to say this, but it is the ideal ‘snackable’ sport. TV rights holders will be under pressure to relinquish certain highlights to help grow the game, not forgetting that every county game (and many club games) are now streamed. Because of its AI algorithms identifying a user’s interests, TikTok is a marvellous learning tool, too. (My daughter has learnt to cook on it.)
TikTok has two other important advantages. One, it’s an excellent opportunity for sponsors, as Guinness and the Six Nations are already demonstrating. As pointed out by two media experts from Omnicom on the excellent Unofficial Partner podcast (below), “there is a significant digital gap in sponsorship” and a formal partnership with TikTok taps into the skills of a host of young creatives cleverly packaging brilliant moments or incidents under a sponsor’s banner. Also it’s the new place for that ugly-sounding but vital phenomenon User Generated Content (UGC) – the nirvana for sports marketeers as it creates multiple levels of engagement and its free. Get ready for new insights into players both professional and amateur, and even that private sanctuary – the “dressing room.” (Its not as tidy and glamorous as it sounds.) And perhaps the first-ever intelligible explanation of reverse swing?