By Lewis Wiseman

Despite cricket being one of Australia’s most popular sports, the introduction of the Twenty20 Big Bash league in 2011 has taken it to a whole new level.

Twenty20 cricket – or T20 as it’s commonly known – is a shorter format of the sport. A match usually lasts around three hours and during the innings break there is often different forms of entertainment. Its purpose is to enhance the spectator experience, with the aim of catering for all ages.

Year on year the Big Bash’s popularity has grown on TV and in the stadiums, setting both record attendances and commendable viewing figures.

At the end of the 2016 season, Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said that the viewing numbers were staggering, stating that more than one million Aussies tuned in to watch the tournament on television that season, and a record breaking 1,030,495 people attended matches across the country.

There are currently eight teams competing in the Big Bash, and one of the most supported is the Brisbane Heat. They are the only team in the league from the state of Queensland and won the competition in 2012/13. I spoke to Brisbane Heat’s Digital and Social Media Manager, Nicolas Laube, who believes the reason why the Big Bash is so successful in Australia is purely because of what the product is – fun, family entertainment.

He said: “We never use the word cricket in the job. In fact, we can go a year around the marketing office without even mentioning the word cricket, conscious and unconsciously. We don’t see our home games as cricket matches, so why should our social media be about cricket? We see ourselves as an entertainment brand spreading fun and joy.”

Engaging with fans is often difficult, yet one of the most important tasks of a professional sports club. Brisbane Heat has the largest following of any Australian professional sports team, so with this in mind I asked Laube what he thought the key to their success at this was.

He said: “Well firstly we like to listen to our fans; we have countless fan and member surveys all year round. We even had a three-stage process where fans and members from every category (super fan, fringe fan, non-fan) chose our new hashtag - #BringTheHeat.”

Laube added: “We always do whatever we can to think like a fan, in every way possible. Why? So we can relate to them, provide their entertainment void, and in doing so, reach new audiences.”

Clearly, Brisbane Heat have communicated with their fanbase well, and that has culminated in increased followers on social media. As well as that, the Heat have gained impressive crowd numbers, consistently finishing at the top end of season attendance averages.

Laube went on to say that social media is essentially the core of the business for Brisbane Heat, helping to bring in commercial opportunities and sponsorships, and acting as a first touch point for revenue streams.

He said: “Social media is a funny one, it is the core of the business but behind all that it is our content platform. We aim to take fans where they have never been before, for any team they might follow, and this is part of our success. This can be seen through our innovative brand ‘Heat Interactive’ which is able to send AR and VR technology and content to all corners of Queensland.”

Laube added: “But above everything else, if you are following our social media channels we would like to think you’d want to be coming to our games. There are analytics and stats that tell us about ticket numbers and the like, however for us, our home games are our product and our social media embodies that product in full.”

Brisbane Heat have taken inspiration from other sports teams in Australia and now they offer inspiration to other teams – particularly through the already mentioned VR technology.

The Big Bash league began again this week, with the final set to take place in February, and already it looks like it will be another blockbuster season.