Ben wins the Bravo 2017

The Bravo is an end-of-year award by the writers and contributors of The Incider for the person we agree to have made the most positive impact for the supporters of Somerset County Cricket Club during the past year. This could be a player, club official, staff member, writer, sponsor or supporter. In fact anyone who has gone that extra yard to improve the experience for Somerset fans.

Previous winners include Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach.

The winner of the 2017 award is one of the unsung heroes at the Cooper Associates County Ground, our Digital Marketing & Communications Executive, Ben Warren.

It is a fitting tribute to the hard-working, lifelong Somerset fan who hails from Bridgwater, who has certainly transformed the match day experience for all supporters who follow Somerset. Those keeping in touch from afar, those of us sneaking a crafty update on our PC’s at work or those looking at our phones sat at traffic lights. And even those in the ground. Ben’s work and contribution cannot be understated.

Ben gained a degree in Sports Marketing at the University of Northampton and landed his dream job at Somerset in 2015 having seen the job advertised, rather inevitably, on Facebook. And his work has been very successful:

“I felt social media in sport was growing and it is going to become more and more important. When I came in three years ago we had seen it grow in football but did I think it could grow in cricket? I thought there was a chance but wasn’t certain being honest.

“But people’s lifestyles are changing and social media is now so important and accessible. It has grown massively. Look at football and how they have used social media to interact with their fans, and also selling tickets, with public relations and keeping everyone on side. Football shows what can be achieved and what we can achieve.”

However big an opportunity social media provides clubs and organisations it can have an ugly side as the club and some players can be on the receiving end of some extreme feedback. How difficult can this be to manage?

“From the player’s point of view, we do speak regularly with them about managing how they need to behave on social media. They are all really good and understand the importance of this.

“It is easy for me to say ‘do this and do that’ having never been a professional sportsman, and I have never been on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse like certain players.

“They are very aware of what is going on, and this actually surprised me when I came in as I wondered if Steven Gerrard read everything said about him on Liverpool FC social media sites and the answer (to that) is probably ‘no’.

“But our guys read everything; what is on the site and social media, and they read the comments too. But we are a professional sports team and have to expect that in the social sphere there will be criticism or praise or whatever.

“We are not so big an entity that the players are beyond caring about what people write about them.

“But it’s not all about negative stuff; look at someone like Lewis Gregory and what he is doing with the Real Shaving Company through social media, he is like an ambassador to them and doing some positive stuff.”

Working for Somerset in his role gives Ben contact with the players, travelling with them to all one day and some of the more important Championship away games. Who are the stand out characters for Ben?

“The bus journeys are different to what I expected. The boys are very focused up and back, so even if we have won it is not a party bus. They spend so much of their lives in summer on that bus so, yes, they have a laugh and joke but this is really their hotel as we don’t stay away all the time and there are regularly early starts and late finishes.

“Daz Veness, when he was with us, was always upbeat. But the boys like to chill and relax. But the usual characters – Trego, Waller, Groenewald and Gregory – they are good value. But they’re all a really good bunch.”

Coming into this new environment, Ben inevitably had to earn his stripes with the Somerset squad:

“You have to earn their respect. You can just waltz in and start shoving microphones in their faces. But as time has moved on they really understand the importance of what we do. We are not necessarily coming at it at the same angle as a national journalist and we are there to make them look good, to build them up as cricketers and people.”

For the young lad who had junior membership until he went to Uni, and used to catch the train after school to watch the last few overs every day, this role gave Ben a chance to work with one of his boyhood heroes:

“I know everyone says it, but I watched Tres when I was growing up playing for Somerset and England, so he was my hero, and now I am working with him.

“It’s great – he’s fantastic – and no-one has a bad word to say about him and there’s good reason for that.”

Steve presents Ben with his bottle of champers. Well deserved too.

2017 has seen Somerset enter into new worlds with their media offer, with live streams of the whole four days in Championship cricket and high profile one-day games too. This has been successful but comes with an amount of red tape.

“The first game we live streamed was the Royal London quarter-final – the 420 plays 430 game against Notts. And there followed some Championship cricket too.

“There are plenty of elements of media rights in this. We are very lucky in cricket because, if you look at football, they don’t have that leeway to show games. There is an agreement because Sky and the ECB which we can’t infringe on.

“But look how it has developed. Two years ago in 2015 – which is not that long ago – any highlights from Championship games looked like they had been recorded on cheap VHS recording device. So to come from there to now, where we can offer real time highlights clips of wickets to fall, and now to stream games, it has been incredible.

“The way social media works now, it is almost like a live blog of the game. And I just love being the one who offers this live update of games.”

And there are more developments to look forward to.

“There are a lot of things we are working on. As with anything a lot comes down to the ECB and Sky as to what we can and cannot do but we would love to do all sorts.

“There could be a Somerset TV in future, for instance, as we have the content that we could turn it into a TV channel.

“We are looking to always improve and have some great ideas in the can. One of them is something that will really excite the fans which is planned for next season, which I can’t talk about just yet, that the fans will absolutely love.”

It would appear to any Somerset fan that Ben has the perfect job. To be paid to watch Somerset and interact with the club’s army of supporters. But it must have its drawbacks? Those boring last days watching tailenders blocking ball-after-ball?

“It’s not as easy as it sounds. The hours are incredibly long and it’s not just the in play hours it is the build-up too and the match day press conferences and all that. There is a lot more than just sitting and watching the cricket and, as you know, the county season is brutal. So there’s not many days off during the summer.

“But it’s brilliant and I absolutely love it and, if ever anything goes wrong or something annoys you, then you do have to take a step back and remember that it is pretty amazing to call the Cooper Associates County Ground your work place and enjoy this view every day.”

And he has a great respect for the club’s fans:

“Essentially if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. The fact that there is such a big demand for me to do what I do is only because of the unwavering support of Somerset fans, so to be able to deliver good news throughout the season is what you look for.

“They’re brilliant.”

On behalf of all Somerset supporters, thank you for your efforts Ben. Enjoy your champagne and keep up the good work.