Our country’s maximum population is dominated by youth and for them, sports is a emotion, and one of such popular sports in India is football. The Indian fantasy sports market has shown exponential growth. Gross revenues of online fantasy sports operators stood at Rs 2,400 crore in FY20 compared to Rs 920 crore in FY19, up by almost three times year-on-year, according to the FIFS-KPMG 2020 report.
Cricket continues to dominate the sports arena, but the emerging generation is fast-developing interest in other sports activities, including football, hockey, kabaddi, and basketball. With the meteoric rise of fantasy sports in India and nudging on the football fans, football-specific fantasy sports platform Twelfth Man, a product of NxGn Sports Interactive, emerged and aims to grow the football fan culture in India.
In conversation with AniamtionXpress NxGn Sports Interactive founder Kush Desai shared, “Our aim is to create a strong football community in the country, grow the football fan culture, and bring the entire football community into the spotlight. Currently, the ~100mn user base of fantasy sports users is just a big undifferentiated mass and to add on to that, while there is definitely brand favouritism amongst users, there isn’t much brand loyalty.”
It is true that as sporting events like IPL commenced, Indian Cricket fantasy sports platforms have spread their wings with strategies to attract the audience to their platforms. And some of them have already covered various other sports apart from cricket on their platform to engage the audience of various sports interest. To shine in the crowd is one of the tasks for these fantasy sports operators and Twelfth Man is no exception. Since the launch of Twelfth Man a few months ago, according to Desai, “Our primary focus is to rise above the “noise” by further developing and strengthening our brand identity and image. We’re also coming up with ways to improve our retention, so let’s see, it’ll be an interesting few months.”
As IPL commenced they have experienced an expected initial decline on the number of users for a week or so, however since football was underway in Europe, users have started returning.
As we all are aware of how fantasy sports platforms are directly dependent on on-ground sporting events, according to Desai there are positive signs for the brand to open its platform for football fans as they were continuously receiving emails, direct messages and more from people thanking them for building the platform for football in India. “Our country hosted the U-17 Men’s World Cup in 2017, we’ll be hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup next summer. European clubs are investing in Indian grassroots and in Indian football. ISL is growing every year. The football fan culture has started picking up pace in this country. So there a lot of positive takeaways,” he added.
When the entire fantasy sports fraternity was fighting with the pandemic, the situation was different for them. He expressed, “People’s desire to get entertained and to pass time just shot up. People started spending a lot more time on their phones, on Netflix, Prime Video and more. Now, of course, the sports leagues were on standby but for Twelfth Man, we did a soft launch in April to test out our Trivia and iron out any bugs and a month later as soon as we realised the football leagues around the world will be resuming, we did our official launch.”
The only challenge that they faced initially was to build trust and genuineness. “A trustworthy brand and the fact that we aren’t trying to scam anyone. We just wanted to build this really cool football platform that the users can enjoy and spend time on,” he said.
Twelfth Man recently roped in football player Sunil Chhetri and with that, the brand aimed to gain trustworthiness which is currently helping them further develop and strengthen the Twelfth Man brand and position it better in the Indian football segment.
Desai concluded, “We want our users to ‘Live The Game’ on our platform. For us, to make sure that we are able to achieve this goal, we had to have Sunil Chhetri on board as the brand ambassador. Chhetri literally lives the game, just watch his plea on Twitter where he asked people to come and support the Indian national team. Working with him has been a dream come true. He is humble, he is nice and hardworking. His role with Twelfth Man is that he is the face of the brand and we hope that this association can continue well into the future.”
With Chhetri as its brand ambassador, the brand has grown from a piece of document to a strong community of 500k users. The app currently follows the freemium model and gives the users an option to play for free as well. In a short span of time, the app has received a decent social media presence as well.