How we created a business that makes Olympic sports marketable in India
Cricket accounts for 88% of the total Indian sports industry. In a cricket-loving nation where other sports need exposure, The Bridge fills that gap.
We as Indians love to consume cricket, and in between, when a non-cricketing athlete makes headlines, we all wonder why their sport is not well covered. As per industry data, "The Indian sports industry recorded a business value of Rs 9,530 crore in the year 2021."
This change was admirable for a sports-crazed country. Unsurprisingly, cricket accounted for 88% of the total, with non-cricketing sports accounting for the remaining 12%.
Nobody is slamming cricket; maybe India will always remain a cricket-loving nation. I like watching the sport too. But other sports need exposure, which is where The Bridge comes in.
By writing stories.
By going that extra mile
By covering unheard and unfiltered stories.
As a digital-first brand, we realized the players were doing their part by working hard and putting their best foot forward. But there weren't enough publications covering them or instead sharing their journeys. Most publications were focusing on high-profile athletes and wrote about their achievements. But what about those, not well-known players bringing laurels to the country? What made them not worthy enough of media coverage?
We pitched in and covered them. We published exclusive pieces, shared over 1000+ unknown athletes, made them proud of their accomplishments and ensured their hard work was not going unrecognized. This, in turn, fostered confidence in the aspiring talent that participating in a non-cricketing sport can lead to success.
It inspired them to dream and hope.
Now, while we wrote and put the limelight on unheard sides and stories of athletes, we had to build our social presence too. While fans watch live action, social media is where they come together to share and connect with the rush of the game.
As a brand, we did not stick to covering live sports but also topical content and capturing moments that made Indian sports beyond cricket consumable by the masses. We also worked with businesses like Myntra, Amazon Prime, HCL, Hummel, Red Bull, and Adani among others to help spread athlete tales.
Our efforts to build a platform that bridges the seen gap between cricketing and non-cricketing sports aided us in getting into strategic partnerships with platforms like Facebook, Google and Instagram that make content larger than life.
Not to forget, despite no sporting events, we survived the pandemic, and how did we pull it - with self-belief and strategic investments. As a brand, we cut unnecessary costs and channelled all our energy by focusing on our strengths and not doing everything. We shifted to fewer verticals and kept writing those unheard and unfiltered athletes' stories.
Another milestone was our 2020 Tokyo Olympics coverage with Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju appreciating our storytelling. The appreciation not only boosted us as a new player in the industry but garnered us eyeballs across industries.
We wanted to be a platform that covered an event as big as the Olympics banking on every possible content format. Our social media presence across platforms was a hit during those two weeks. Nothing would have been possible without the support of our user base.
All of these helped us see a 275% growth in reach after the Olympics and set us on a larger mission to cover such multi-sporting events like never before. During the Commonwealth Games this year, we managed to generate interest even amongst casual sports fans via our YouTube live streams which garnered a viewership of over 2 Million in just 10 days.
We at The Bridge got better with every sport. We learned with every sport and got better at on-ground coverage of sporting events that never got the audience they deserved. A few exclusive coverages led to increased visibility and marketability of non-cricket sports.
We became the first-ever media house to live stream a state-level women's football event after covering the Karnataka Women's Football League. Coverage of National Para-athletic championships, breakdancing qualifying events and the Pro-Panja League were a few other unconventional events where we worked to maximize their reach and impact
Lately, we have been trying our best to bring together not just stakeholders of the industry but sports fans who connect with the cause to help find stories.
Our latest campaign - Manipur, was an eye-opener. A small and active donation from fans helped us go to the remote villages in Manipur and bring forward stories of both current stars and forgotten stories.
We will continue doing what we do best - cover stories that readers wish they knew before!
(The writer is the Co-founder and Product head of The Bridge and has spent the last 7 years in the digital media space covering and talking about Indian Sports.)