By Vishnu Anand
April 3, 2023: Fifteen years back, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was launched in India to increase the popularity of twenty-over cricket through franchise investments.
While the IPL has catapulted to fame in the last decade or so, individual franchisees are today looking beyond the game to harness the franchise brands.
Online certification programmes
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Royal Challengers Bangalore announced the launch of a start-up accelerator and health-tech program that will enable start-ups, educational institutions and accelerators to create educational solutions in sports and health, powered by tech.
Over the next few weeks, the franchise is set to launch online certification courses through university accreditations, starting with a joint certification programme with IIT Madras.
This is part of its multi-pronged approach to innovation -- coaching and enabling cricketing skills, education through formal degrees and certifications and informal bite-sized webinars, AI-based talent scouting initiatives, research through university accreditations and internship with the franchise.
India as a global sports powerhouse
As part of its season kick-off event – RCB Unbox – the franchise announced a collaboration with LEADERS – a global sports community that drives popularity and innovation through events and technology.
With the aim of leveraging cutting-edge tech to shape the future of sport (not just cricket) across South East Asia, the programme will bring global sports leaders for the first time in India on a single platform, over two days, with representation from 15+ countries on how to leverage India as a sports business market.
Leadership is social reach
All of these initiatives hinge on the franchise being a leader in social media.
From the pandemic years, RCB has ranked number 8 globally across all sports clubs. With Manchester United leading the race with 2.6 billion engagement, RCB went on become the sub-continent’s biggest team in terms of social media interactions with 820 million engagements in less than a year.
Leveraging cutting-edge tech to unlock talent
While the franchise plans to leverage the power of technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning as part of its educational, and health-tech initiatives, RCB has also been a frontrunner in using these technologies to identify the right sporting talent.
Across both its IPL men and WPL teams, RCB has used hinterland scouting techniques, which is heavily reliant on AI, ML and cloud technologies.
Rajesh Menon, Head and Vice President of RCB said, “Hinterland scouting helps us identify talent from any corner of the world using technology. It involves receiving camera feeds of player action, processing it on the cloud and using sophisticated AI algorithms to help us understand gameplay.”
He added, “We have successfully used this technique for both men and women. An ideal example you’ll see this year is Avinash Singh whom we scouted for his ability to deliver balls at speeds in excess of 153 Kmph.”
“The future of cricketing talent may not lie in cricket”
Explaining about the potential of using AI in talent scouting, Rajesh didn’t mince words when he said, “When we look to find talent, the answer may not lie in cricket.”
Hinterland scouting has the ability to unearth players that may not be formally trained in the game but possess the ability to play innovatively and can be groomed to transform the game.
This finds even better meaning in say the WPL where a large number of teams have to create squads from a fairly limited pool of resources. Technology will surely play a role in empowering women in sport by identifying stars out of nowhere.
Commitment to sustainability
RCB became the first carbon-neutral cricket team in 2013. This was followed by the installation of 1422 solar panels in its Bangalore home ground, the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, generating 400KW of power.
Over the years, the franchise organizes a green game every season where player jerseys are manufactured using recycled water bottles collected from the stadium. Taking its green initiative a step further, RCB has announced this year, an alliance with leading volunteering platform – Goodera to transform 200 educational institutions in Bangalore into certified green schools.
Additionally, the franchise has identified two lakes in Bangalore for redevelopment, covering 44 acres, to eliminate the risk of flooding.
This article has appeared in Swarajyamag