Magazine article Marketing

BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Snooker - Can Snooker Raise Its Game to Divert Crisis?

Magazine article Marketing

BRAND HEALTH CHECK: Snooker - Can Snooker Raise Its Game to Divert Crisis?

Article excerpt

While impressive TV viewing figures testify to snooker's popularity, internal crises have forced the sport into restructuring Mark Kleinman asks where it can go from here.

Snooker is in crisis, but you wouldn't know it from the TV viewing figures. Every April, as the international snooker circus moves to Sheffield for the World Championship, millions of Brits tune in for one of the most popular sporting events in the UK.

In 1985, more than 18 million people stayed up for one of the most dramatic moments in sporting history, when Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis on the final black of the final frame of the Final.

It couldn't get any better; and indeed it didn't. Despite TV audiences for the World Championship Final averaging more than five million over the past five years - making snooker the second-most watched sport in the country - it has been difficult for players and fans to keep their attention on the green baize as snooker has rocked from one dispute to another.

Last year, Jim McKenzie, the chief executive of governing body World Snooker, was ousted in ignominious circumstances. His departure followed the decision of top players to break away from the association to form a rival faction. The whole ugly business duly proceeded to court, and it has yet to be resolved, leaving the sport in limbo.

Snooker will also be among the sports hardest hit by the end of tobacco sponsorship, reliant as it is on the backing of brands such as Embassy and Benson & Hedges. Attempts to replicate the success of Formula One by bringing in non-tobacco sponsors have met with only limited success.

To date, only LG Electronics has signed a deal of any real financial significance.

Snooker now appears in need of real leadership. This week, World Snooker announced a major commercial restructuring, which is likely to include the appointment of its first marketing director.

We asked Matthew Patten, chief executive of M&C Saatchi Sponsorship, whose clients include B&H, and ex-Rugby Football League commercial chief Neal Coupland, now a director at Bermitz Sports Advertising, for their views on the likelihood of success for snooker's revamp.

VITAL SIGNS

TV viewing figures for World Championship Finals 1997-2001
1997       5.3 million       (Ken Doherty vs Stephen Hendry)
1998       5.1 million       (John Higgins vs Ken Doherty)
1999       4.7 million       (Stephen Hendry vs Mark Williams)
2000       5.8 million       (Mark Williams vs Matthew Stevens)
2001       6.5 million       (Ronnie O'Sullivan vs John Higgins)

Source: World Snooker

DIAGNOSIS

Matthew Patten

My son and his mates dream of playing football with Becks, tennis with Tim, and golf with Tiger. A few frames with Ronnie doesn't compete.

And therein lies snooker's problem. Years of under-investment and in-fighting mean that while the standard of play is better, the image of snooker has dated. …

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