When Gujarat Titans set out on its journey in the Indian Premier League in early 2022 after early hiccups, its management team coined a mission statement that was refreshingly different from those of corporate entities: ‘To be the most entertaining and engaging franchise in IPL.’
On the field, Hardik Pandya’s platoon is hoping to become only the third team to win back-to-back titles; off the field, the management team is preparing itself for its real debut. The team played amid crowd restrictions last year due to the re-emergence of COVID-19, but this year, there are no such restrictions. On March 31, the team will for the first time play an IPL game in front of its home crowd. “The cricket team may have had a dream debut, but in real terms, this is going to be our first season. We want the fans to say that if you want to enjoy cricket and have a seamless experience at a stadium, come to Gujarat and watch the Gujarat Titans home games,” says (retd. Col.) Arvinder Singh, the chief operating officer of Gujarat Titans. “And even if you are not able to watch a game live, across digital media — especially through Titans FAM (the official app) — you can interact with us in the team in real time.”
Arvinder oversaw operations at the Kings XI Punjab during its tumultuous early years and later on at the Gujarat Lions for its two years in the IPL. But when he joined the Titans ahead of least season, he knew that his challenge was going to be greater.
When the IPL started, in 2008, social media, especially in India, was overlooked as Twitter was in its nascent stage and Instagram and other ever-evolving engagement tools for Gen Z were yet to be born. On the other hand, in 2022, when the Titans came into existence, their primary challenge was to try — with the help of social media — to carve out their own identity in a league where eight prominent clubs had established themselves as well-known brands.
That’s why the Titans realised that they had to be engaging. While most franchises restrict themselves to responding to fan posts on social media and allowing fans to interact with players, the Titans went a step further by running a contest for fans to be part of the team bubble.
“Last year, we could not engage as much as we wanted to. Still, we ran a contest – ‘Fan in the bubble’ – last year itself. We had two winners. One of them was a girl from Pune, we made her go through a three-day quarantine after travelling to Mumbai. She spent a day in the team room, with the team, and watched the game with us from the bubble,” says Arvinder.
“And similarly, another winner from Kolkata was made to go through the same. And he joined us when we played the Qualifier at the Eden Gardens.”
The Titans had to think out of the box to create their own fan base.
After all, by joining the IPL in its 15th season, it had to compete for space with franchises who had already developed a loyal fan-base. “We are always conscious that our top priority is Gujaratis, then Indians and then the global audience, including the Gujarati diaspora overseas. At the same time, we are also conscious that other fans are bound to be attracted to us due to the brand of cricket we play. There’s a whole set of audience that’s waiting to be attracted with the Titans fam,” Arvinder says.
According to Arvinder, the first season saw the Titans achieving their objectives.
Mumbai featured in their top five fan-base cities – besides the four major cities in Gujarat (Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Rajkot). Of course, on-field results helped. “Being champion has helped us tremendously. That’s where it has kicked up forward a couple of years.”
The first big step in its endeavour has been the launch of Titans FAM, the official Gujarat Titans app. It aims to serve as a one-stop shop for fan engagements and for any purchase related to the franchise, including tickets and merchandise. “We shall respond in real-time through the App and the fans don’t have to wait and hope for a response on other social media platforms,” he says.
“Even for content – especially long-form content that we are going to present in a unique way this time around – the app is the main destination. Social media handles will be utilised for releasing its teasers.”
“Gujarat is our prime focus. We are very proud of having this iconic stadium (the Narendra Modi Stadium) as our home, and we have every intention to show that this will be the best venue for the fans to come and experience the manner in which the Titans will conduct these games. We are very conscious of our on-ground engagement in Ahmedabad and all over the State of Gujarat,” he says.
If Arvinder’s team walks the talk and if Hardik’s Hurricanes continue to wreak havoc, the Titans will be able to translate their mission statement into reality sooner than expected.