Twitter a powerful tool for sports institutions to build voices: Aneesh Madani

As social media finds growing relevance in our day-to-day lives, we see it getting constantly intertwined in the fabric of other avenues as well. With sports and the consequent popularity of it being well on the rise in India, Twitter especially has seamlessly woven itself into the fabric of sports.

It’s the place to be for breaking news, insightful discussions and even having a basic idea of your favourite athlete’s persona by judging the way they are on social media. In fact, according to Navigate Research — a Chicago-based research, measurement and analysis company — sports fans are 67 percent more likely to use Twitter as their second-screen viewing experience compared to non-sports fans.

With the amazing year gone by in Indian sports, there is no doubt that social media has played an extremely important role in bringing the fans together as a sort of community. The Bridge spoke to Aneesh Madani, the head of sports partnerships for Twitter in the Asia Pacific region to get a sense of the tech conglomerate’s plans for Indian sports in 2019- an important year with a view to the Tokyo Olympics.


2018 has been a fantastic year for Indian Sports. How do you think Twitter played a part in improving the social media experience for a sports fan?

Twitter is what’s happening in the world and what people are talking about right now. Over the last five years, we’ve seen sports grow at a rapid pace in India and the public conversation around this growth has happened on Twitter.

For instance, there were 18.8 million Tweets around the IPL in 2018, almost four times as many as there were in 2014. This has happened alongside Twitter’s investments in bringing diverse voices and building innovative fan experiences in partnership with India’s biggest leagues, teams, broadcasters and athletes.

An example of how Twitter played a part in enhancing this experience was our partnership with Star Sports for the IPL season and India cricket where cricket commentators would surprise fans with a personal video reply from @StarSportsIndia to Tweets that included the hashtag #SelectDugout.

This happened throughout the cricket season so there were some happy fans!


Video consumption has seen explosive growth in recent years. What were the strategies of Twitter India in this regard and others?

Twitter serves the public conversation, and video has been instrumental in driving this.

We have focused on bringing premium sports videos from institutions and individuals that are relevant in the moment to Twitter, which in turn drive conversations and make moments of magic happen for fans on the platform.

For instance, video clips of the FIFA World Cup, Asian Games, India-Australia cricket series, Caribbean Premier League Formula 1, Indian Super League and many other sporting events were all available for fans on Twitter to watch and talk about.

In fact, the Indian Super League is Tweeting match highlights in four different Indian languages (English, Tamil, Bengali and Malayalam) on Twitter, making the league even more accessible to fans across the country in the language of their choice.


While Sunil Chhetri’s tweet went viral across all domains, did Twitter do anything in particular to help the campaign reach out to a wider audience?

Sunil Chhetri’s Tweet making a passionate plea to fans to come out and support the Indian football team in Mumbai during the Intercontinental Cup was the Golden Tweet (most Retweeted) of the year from India in 2018.

It’s a great example of the power of sport and organic reach of a public, conversational platform like Twitter. The video tweeted by Chhetri had 60K retweets and showed how sport fans have led the conversation on Twitter.


Asian Games 2018 came close to matching IPL 2018 in terms of engagement. What do you think could be the reason?

Interest in sport in the country has been on the rise for some time now. Cricket always leads the conversation, but with the inception and growth of local leagues such as ISL & Pro Kabaddi, conversation around sport has evolved. We’ve seen this play out in different ways on Twitter.

For instance, when Hima Das (@HimaDas8) became the first Indian athlete to win a gold in a track event at the world level in July, we ensured that she understood the power of using Twitter to connect directly with her fans. Her first Tweet was a video thanking people for their support. It took off on Twitter, getting nearly 18,000 Retweets and 400,000 video views.

This increase in interest, coupled with a strong showing by the Indian contingent in the Asian Games 2018, a significant proportion of whom were Tweeting through the Games, ensured a high volume of conversation around the event.


What are Twitter India’s plan for 2019 in sports? Any offbeat plan/strategies which might stand out?

Sports is on the rise in India and 2019 will be a super exciting year. The next step is to help India’s sports content reach more of the world.

An example of that already happening at the moment is #CricbuzzLIVE, Cricbuzz’s studio show and clips on Twitter which cricket fans anywhere in the world can watch and talk about. There’s more sports voices, conversations and video to come on Twitter.


Do you feel increased engagement on twitter for Indian sports content has opened new avenues for sports business in india? Throw some light on this.

Absolutely. Sports brings to life inspiring stories from society and the growth of public conversations on Twitter around these stories further adds to the rise of commercial opportunity.

Twitter’s In Stream Video Sponsorship and In Stream Video ads models allow for our league, team, athlete and broadcast partners to monetize their video content. An example of this is the partnership we’ve had for two years running with the Caribbean Premier League and Hero Motorcycles.

In addition to this, we’ve even heard from paralympic athletes like Manasi Joshi (@joshimanasi11) sharing that they’ve had sponsors reach out to her via Twitter.

Twitter is a powerful tool for individuals and institutions in sport to build their voice and commercial value.