We head to the world of cricket in the latest instalment of Industry Insider. We sat down with the Founder of Cricket District, Toby Marriott to chat about his career, best advice, number one focus and much more. Let’s dive in!
Tell us about yourself, what is your current role and what roles have you done previously?
Hello I’m Toby Marriott, I’m the founder of Cricket District, a multi-platform media network designed to grow the game through entertaining, social first content. Our mission is to celebrate the sport at every level, from Lord’s to the village green and everything in between.
We also work with a number of organisations in sport, operating as both a media business and creative digital agency. One of these clients is Sixes Social Cricket, the world’s first social entertainment concept in the sport, which now has venues in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester, with several more in the pipeline.
Away from work, I’m a keen runner, dog walker and of course, village cricketer!
What do you do in your current role?
Alongside Jack Meacher, I create content for our Cricket District channels and engage with our community. We currently have a combined audience of 900,000 cricket fans around the world, and try to offer a unique, entertaining and unbiased view of the sport. Alongside this, I manage our relationships with brands, rights holders and creative agency clients. Both Cricket District and Sixes are incredibly exciting businesses to be a part of, and no day is ever the same.
“Normal” isn’t a thing in sport so what does an “average” week look like for you?
A typical week will involve at least one day of filming Cricket District content with Jack, a day at one of our Sixes venues and a day of meeting potential partners and clients. We have just built a new website and newsletter, so our recent focus has been on refining that, planning content for 2023 and helping Sixes with the launch of their new venue in Leicester.
How did you end up where you are right now? When did you know you wanted to work in sport?
In my final year at school, I picked up an injury which prevented me from playing any sport in my first year at the University in Bristol. After spending too much time inside and on social media, I realised a lack of creative content in the sport I loved – cricket. With very limited knowledge and skill, I created an Instagram page called CricketNow, aiming to create the cricketing equivalent of House of Highlights. Unfortunately, I ended up spending far too much time on this, and not enough on my studies, and dropped out of university to pursue a career in sports marketing!
My first role was as a social media executive at Snack Media, where I learned the basics of photoshop and video editing, before moving on to freelance roles at the ICC and ESPN. After a year of freelance work, I was approached by Chris Millard at The Barmy Army, and began running their social media for the 2017-18 Ashes tour. Sadly, it wasn’t to be for England down under, but it was the start of an amazing 3-year tour of the world with their brilliant supporters group. I traveled to New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean and South Africa, following the men’s Test team and running The Barmy Army’s digital content. It was the best job in the world and I am so grateful to Chris, Paul Burnham and David Peacock for giving me the opportunity.
The pandemic hit in 2020, and with no England tours for the foreseeable future, I decided to focus on building Cricket District. Despite the lack of club cricket taking place, the cricketing community became remarkably creative, playing backyard cricket, building homemade bowling machines and recreating iconic moments in the garden. Cricket District became the home of entertaining cricket content in lockdown, with people around the world submitting their videos to be shared on our platforms.
Having seen my work, I was approached by Calum Mackinnon, CEO at Sixes, to head up digital content for the start-up. It has been an amazing thing to be a part of from the beginning, and I’m excited to see Sixes continue to grow. It has changed the way many people perceive the game, showcasing cricket as a fun, social sport that is for everyone, whether you’re a cricket badger or complete beginner. The food and drinks are fantastic too, which helps!
What is your number one focus when it comes to your work?
Positivity. I have always strived to add value, build a community and connect people with the sport I love. One of my reasons for building Cricket District was a frustration at existing media, its lack of connection to the recreational levels of the game and often negative stance on the sport and its players.
Our focus will always be to share stories about cricket at its inclusive and entertaining best. This sport has given me so much, from making new friends to spending quality time with family, and I feel drawn to give back at every opportunity.
Can you tell us about a time you failed and what you learned from it?
The channel I mentioned earlier, CricketNow, was shut down by Instagram. I was a naive 19-year-old and thought I could share clips from the professional game without consequence! It taught me to focus on original content, learn the tools of the trade, not to take shortcuts and to build proper relationships with rights holders. Because we now focus on a blend of original content and UGC, we have built a far greater community than before. So whilst that failure was hard at the time, it has been the making of Cricket District and my career as a creator so far.
What are you excited about in your industry at the moment?
I’m most excited by the growth of the women’s game, the emergence of video creators like ourselves and the accessibility now granted to non-traditional media in cricket. The women’s game is growing rapidly, and with a T20 World Cup and Women’s IPL next year, 2023 is going to be the biggest yet. We noticed an increase in our number of female followers this year, along with an increase in content submitted by women’s teams in the summer, which is brilliant to see.
The accessibility granted to Cricket District and other creators in the sport has been a great shift this year too. Video creators are now considered equal to the written press, and brands are also moving their focus towards video content. With an Ashes summer and Men’s World Cup in 2023, we’re excited to see creativity in the sport continue to grow and work with brands who share our mission of growing the game.
If you could change one thing about your Industry, what would you change?
I would improve the accessibility to content in cricket. The NBA do an incredible job at spreading awareness of the game by allowing independent channels to use highlights and clips for their own use, and I feel cricket has missed a trick in this regard. Fans around the world are discouraged from creating entertaining content because they risk losing their digital channels altogether. I would love for rights holders and cricket boards to work closer with creators to grow the game we love. After all, isn’t that what we all want?
Sport is a hectic industry, what do you do to switch off?
We are fortunate to live at the foot of the Sussex Downs and 5 minutes from the beach, so I’m able to take the dogs on long walks to switch off. I have found that these moments of stillness are incredibly valuable, and in a world that is constantly connected and one WhatsApp message away, it’s more important than ever to escape into the natural world and reset.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to work in the sports industry?
Create your own work. From my experience, it’s the best thing you can ever do if you’re looking to work in the sports industry. Every opportunity I have been given has been because someone saw a video I made or a channel I grew. It’s easier said than done, but make the content that you would want to see as a fan, and if it only gets 1, 2, 3, 10 or 20 views, one of those views could be the person to open the door to your next opportunity in the industry.
How to connect with Toby Marriott and Cricket District…
You can follow Cricket District @cricketdistrict on all social platforms, and my personal Twitter is @tobymarriott!
Thanks for reading our chat with Toby Marriott! If you want to read more from our Industry Insider series, you can do so by clicking here.