Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Cricket Puts Best Foot Forward

Magazine article Marketing

News Analysis: Cricket Puts Best Foot Forward

Article excerpt

Last year's Twenty20 one-day cricket tournament debut has driven sponsor interest in the game.

England may have slumped embarrassingly against New Zealand and the West Indies in the latest one-day cricket internationals, but off the pitch the story is very different. Cricket is coming out fighting, seeking to rival football - the nation's favourite sport - on all fronts.

Cricket's fightback against accusations that it is elitist and lacks mass-market appeal is well under way. Its governing body, the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), is embarking on a revitalisation programme that is starting to revolutionise both aspects of the sport itself and the perceptions of consumers and sponsors.

The Twenty20 Cup is at the forefront of this revitalisation. The tournament was launched last year by the ECB in an attempt to bring cricket to a much broader market by offering shorter and more exciting games. More than 250,000 people watched the tournament.

This year, the ECB is hoping to smash this figure and has been actively encouraging fans to buy tickets in advance through marketing campaigns with the individual county clubs. Initial results have been encouraging: more than 110,000 advance tickets have been sold compared with just 15,000 last year, and two games have already sold out.

It's not just the nation's cricket fans who are getting behind the short-format game; major brands are also beginning to perceive the game as a lucrative sponsorship opportunity.

During the winter, the ECB had several approaches from household brands, with the Carphone Warehouse believed to be interested in paying a seven-figure sum to sponsor the entire tournament.

Tiered sponsorship

The ECB rejected all suitors, insisting that it wanted to stick with its existing sponsorship structure. This comprises three top-tier brand partners - Npower, Thomas Cook and Admiral Insurance - with Sola Eyewear the official supplier for this year.

ECB claims that Twenty20 is not about driving commercial sponsorship revenue or raising its profile among major brand sponsors. But Tom Harrison, the acting commercial director of the ECB says that in future, it will try to take advantage of increasing interest from new sponsors.

The fact that England is doing well, on the international Test arena at least, has spread a feelgood factor among supporters and existing and potential brand sponsors.

There is hard evidence of the increased commercial goodwill toward cricket.

The Frontiers Group, which manages the commercial rights for all seven Test match grounds, has generated a 40% uplift in sponsorship revenue this year from a portfolio of major brand sponsors. …

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