How Fantasy Cricket is deepening ties with Cricket leagues
Online fantasy sports gaming (OFSG) is a booming industry in India with offerings like cricket, football, kabaddi, basketball and other popular sports games. The number of fantasy sports operators has increased by seven times (~7x) over 2016-2018 (KPMG – The evolving landscape of sports gaming in India). fantasy sports had attracted over 100 million users by 2019. Gross revenues of online fantasy sports operators stood at Rs 2,400 crore in FY2020, compared to Rs 920 crore in FY2019.
It is not surprising to learn that in a country that worships cricket, Fantasy Cricket contributed to 85% of contest entry amount of fantasy sports platforms in 2019. There are about 140 fantasy sports operators in the country, most of whom offer Fantasy Cricket as an offering. The more prominent players in this segment have partnered with official sports leagues as sports game partner to create legitimacy for their brand.
Adgully organised a #TwitterChat on April 16, 2021 to understand how fantasy gaming operators have been building their Fantasy Cricket brand on the back of IPL fever. Joining the conversation was an esteemed panel of some of the leading fantasy gaming operators in India:
Amit Purohit, Founder, fantasy Akhada
Hari Narayan, Founder and CEO, SportzXchange
Shashi Kumar, Co-founder & VP - Operations, Fan2Play
The conversation began with the critical question of the gains these players had made in terms of growth of their user base by associating with mainstream cricket leagues like the Indian Premier League.
fantasy Akhada’s Amit Purohit said, “We focus on driving acquisition around mainstream cricket and T20 cricket to be specific. We believe that IPL season is the most fertile period to drive acquisition and we are looking to be aggressive, by our standards, with our marketing plan!”
SportzXchange’s Hari Narayan noted, “fantasy sport is already very popular in India and is poised for further growth for a number of reasons. Our association with mainstream cricket and the millions of fans is driven by two factors – a) Progressively covering as many tournaments and leagues that are being played throughout the year and associating with tournament organisers, and b) As a brand, SportzXchange is committed to provide a little extra to cricket fans and users, be it in terms of fun, thrill, contest variations, rewards, etc.”
Fan2Play’s Shashi Kumar observed, “cricket is and will continue to be the driving force when it comes to mainstream sports in our country. Using a cricket season, especially like IPL, is the best time to create awareness about your app/ brand among the cricket enthusiasts.”
That would mean that the success and growth metrics of these platforms are closely related to the sports calendar of the country.
Kumar added, “Following the cricket calendar around the year is one of the key aspects of a fantasy brand these days as there are so many matches/ series going on which fans have a liking for and want to play fantasy contests. You cannot skip any match/ series these days as it gives the fans a reason to look for other apps and there lies an opportunity no one wants to offer to their competitors. Covering key matches and targeting users is something we look at.”
While stating that long form cricket could in no way be compared to the traction that they got on T20, Purohit said, “The fantasy sports calendar is slightly different from a hardcore cricket fan’s calendar. The Indian Premier League, ICC World T20, Big Bash League, Caribbean Premier League, Women’s Big Bash League do well for us.”
Similarly, Narayan said, “We follow the IPL and ICC calendar for now, but will soon offer contests for other leagues and domestic tournaments.”
fantasy sports operators claim that fantasy sports bring the audience closer to the game. But is the fantasy sports experience, which comprises simulated games, player stats, and cash prizes really getting a boost only from cricket fandom?
According to Narayan, “(Fantasy Cricket) gives the fan, the experience:
- a) of being a selector,
- b) of showcasing their interest and knowledge in the sport,
- c) of competing with others,
- d) competing in an arena which does not require them to be in the forefront, but allows them to strategize and win with skill and competence, and lastly,
- e) who doesn’t like to win cash prizes?”
Purohit added here, “I believe it is primarily on account of enhanced sports engagement. A hardcore sports fan just enjoys the sports/ cricket viewing experience even more when he/she is invested in it.”
With 140 fantasy operators in the country the biggest challenge for these Fantasy Cricket brands is to create preference and stickiness to their app/ platform. How do they do that?
Purohit said, “Our single point agenda is to come across as the most customer centric brand in the fantasy sports ecosystem. This, we believe, will help establish trust in the minds of the new users we acquire and will have a huge impact even post IPL.”
Narayan added here, “As of now, we are delighted to have Prithvi Shaw as our brand ambassador and we are planning to have other athletes too. Let’s just say, we are looking at making our team.”
According to Kumar, “Gaining a user’s trust is everything and we want our existing and prospective users to believe that we are operating with transparency. We have signed on Harbhajan Singh as the face of our campaign and are hopeful of building on this.”
Till now, these operators have relied on word of mouth to grow their presence. What’s the role of marketing in their growth strategy?
Narayan explained, “While advertising and marketing help in creating brand awareness, I feel word of mouth is a powerful way of providing comfort, legitimacy and initial trust to a first time user and reinforces the message communicated through advertising. It is crucial for us to ensure safety and security of the users’ money, transparency at every step of their journey with SportzXchange, encouraging the user to play responsibly and providing a prompt and efficient support system when they need it.”
Kumar here asked, “(Word of mouth) – isn’t it everything that a brand hopes for? You want people to like, trust and then share your model with their circle. The moment you take care of a user’s interest and money, they repay you with their trust, support and much more.”
Adding further, he said, “Since we are in a Real Money Gaming industry, it is all about safeguarding a user’s money and giving them a winner’s feeling. Our users are our heroes; we need to treat them like one.”
Purohit opined that both go hand in hand, and added, “While volume is achieved through digital marketing initiatives, word of mouth around the heavy duty cricketing season helps us get a lot of quality/ active users who end up becoming highrollers. As long as you provide a platform where users feel they have a fair chance to use their knowledge and skill and get their money in quick time back in their account, the trust will be established. The turn-around-time on query resolution also plays a big role in establishing trust.”
Are these players thinking of deepening ties with cricket by launching new formats or becoming gaming partner to these sports leagues?
While stating that the focus is on launching innovative formats, Narayan informed, “We currently offer two variants of Fantasy Cricket, first is the classic version which most platforms offer and this version can be adapted to any format of cricket. The second version, 3X fantasy is unique and allows a user to use their initial budget and select up to three units of players in their team and get points accordingly. A lot of users like this because unlike the classic version, even if a user gets the Captain and Vice-Captain pick wrong, they still have a chance to win if they choose the right players with multiple units. In addition to these versions, our platform will also come up with an IPL specific version for the next season.”
Kumar said, “Season long fantasy tournaments are something we have thought about. For now, Challenge fantasy (2/3/4 Player team) is the biggest game changer for us and for fantasy users this IPL season. Innovation is the key to drive this industry and we are here to contribute to it.”