Magazine article Marketing

Cricket Faces a Sponsorship Crisis

Magazine article Marketing

Cricket Faces a Sponsorship Crisis

Article excerpt

The English Cricket Board is finding the passage to satellite TV/not as smooth as it would have liked. Key sponsors may pull out if their matches are aired on Sky

There is a problem facing English cricket and it's more than just the average performance of our national team. Last month Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, decided test matches could be taken off the protected list of sporting events - the so-called 'crown jewels' which must be shown on terrestrial channels - and sold to satellite broadcasters.

The English Cricket Board (ECB) must have thought that at last it was going to get the money it so desperately needed; it was now in a position to negotiate deals with Sky and force the BBC to bid for the rights to some of the matches.

But to gain in one area it seems that cricket must lose out in another; the sport is facing the loss of key sponsors who believe the audience will dwindle if matches are only available on satellite. It appears some of the sponsors are not keen on having their matches shown on Sky. And adding to the uncertainly is the fact that the ECB is still unable to confirm which matches will be shown on terrestrial TV and which will be shown on satellite.

This year a number of top sponsors have announced they are pulling out of cricket. These include Texaco, which has had a long involvement with the sport. "Fifteen years was a good innings and a long time for any sponsorship," says Paul Bray, public relations manager for Texaco.

Tobacco firm Gallaher has so far declined the offer to sponsor another tournament following the news that the Benson & Hedges Cup, which it has sponsored since 1981, is to be axed by the ECB after this year. No doubt the deal was also affected by the impending tobacco advertising ban for European Union countries.

This year will also be the last for AXA Equity & Law, which has sponsored the one-day AXA League since 1993. In addition the Triangular Tournament, which takes place next month, has yet to name a sponsor. Terry Blake, marketing director of the ECB and tournament director of the forthcoming Cricket World Cup, remains confident a partner will be signed up soon and cites problems with "viewing negotiations" as the reason for the delay.

Blake admits maintaining sponsors is a problem at the moment: "We have been held up a bit with our negotiations to replace some sponsors as well as renegotiate with current sponsors, but this all comes back to the point of coverage rights for the events. …

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