This is shaping up to be a bumper year for England Cricket (whether you agree with the scheduling or not). Our boys are set to face the Aussies home and away with two back-to-back Ashes series and 10 Test matches within four months.
The question is: what can we expect from sponsors during this cricketing feast?
There have been some great sponsorship campaigns in the UK over the years including Betfair, Adidas, Marstons and Buxtons, and in our view, the conditions are in place to take it to another level again to create something really ground-breaking.
Secondly, it will attract a big audience. This year’s Ashes are already looking to be a record-breaking sell-out across all five venues staging Tests, with a rush for tickets as soon as they went on sale. And across TV, radio, print and the web the crown jewel of cricket will as always pull in enormous audiences in England, Australia and beyond.
Thirdly, the appeal of England versus Australia goes way beyond the traditional Test cricket audiences and into the realms of the Casual Sport Fan. What’s more, The Ashes is a tournament that combines a strong mix of banter, patriotism and humour, which is the perfect platform for creating unique and amusing social content that celebrates one of the most famous of all sporting rivalries.
And finally, social media has reached a critical mass. The way that audiences engage with cricket is expanding beyond the traditional channels. Modern sports fans have embraced technology: it’s a core part of their increasingly fragmented media consumption diet plan. Nothing will replace TMS, but Twitter has made cricket easier than ever to follow and the variety of content is unmatched. Where else can you find out both the latest score and who on the team is having a bad hair day? This gives brands that want to use cricket to reach their audience far more exciting opportunities.
The campaign Synergy created for Betfair in 2009 was one of the earliest socially-centred campaigns in cricket. We used social channels to fuel the banter while Jason Gillespie and Phil Tufnell brought the Anglo-Aussie Ashes rivalry to life. Great content, big promotions and physical rewards (tickets and merchandise) attracted fans and kept them engaged throughout the summer of cricket. And that was in the early days of social media – imagine what is possible now.
We can see more great examples of cricket campaigns from around the world.
Coca-Cola provided a great example of what is possible in cricket when they built the ‘Coca-Cola Beach’ at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). Not only did Coca-Cola create a brilliantly orchestrated experiential zone within the venue, they also developed a fully-integrated campaign using Facebook, POS, online, PR and TV. By using Sydney residents Shane Watson, David Warner and captain Michael Clarke, Coke’s campaign encouraged consumers to buy a bottle and win a spot on the beach – the ultimate seat in the SCG.
A cricket tour, which can last for 3 months, gives a brand plenty of time to stage a slower-burn, wide-ranging campaign. In India, Nike capitalised on this by creating ‘Streets to the Stadium’. The campaign focused on a set of young Indian cricketers who were offered a chance to join the roster of the National Cricket Academy by winning the Nike Cup. Along the way, they engaged over 8,000 cricketers and 2.5m Facebook fans via the brilliant content they released on their social media channels.
Mobile is another rich area for cricket sponsors. Vodafone’s Live Cricket app currently offers fans the chance to chat to the commentators and get up-to-the-minute stats and scores – whilst this is all useful, it’s nothing ground-breaking. Brands could go so much further. With its rich tactical nuances, deep statistics and frequent breaks in play (between every ball), cricket is the perfect platform for a brilliant second screen experience.
Apps also have the opportunity enhance the in-stadium experience. Imagine the perfect cricket app that allowed you to order a pie and a pint from your seat, to rewind and watch replays, send messages to the big screen and switch to a front row seat camera view. All possible. The one thing holding all this back is the availability at Test match grounds of free WiFi. But things are starting to change, and Lord’s is leading the way by launching free public WiFi last summer in the media centre, hospitality and public areas, which will be rolled out across all stands in 2013.
There is no doubt that the conditions are right and the ingredients are there for a brand to shake up cricket sponsorship. And the even better news is that there is a property available: principal sponsor of the England Cricket Team.
Brit Insurance, the current sponsor, has already announced that they will not renew their deal at the end of their contract, citing a ‘strategic change in business objectives’. They have also made it clear that they are prepared to terminate their deal early if a new sponsor can be found. In many ways, it’s a surprised that no-one has stepped in already to take advantage of the Ashes double-header. In fact, the new sponsor could be looking at three high-profile series against Australia, a Champions Trophy and a World Cup, all in the next three years.
This type of opportunity is simply too good to miss. Let’s hope the next sponsor, whoever it might be, gets the delivery right and then smashes it out of the ground.
By Lisa Parfitt on February 28th, 2013
Tags: Advertising, Ashes, Branded content, Consultancy, Content, Cricket, ECB, Experiential marketing, Facebook, India, London 2012, Mobile, Social Media, Sponsorship, Sponsorship Activation, Sponsorship consultancy, Sport, Synergy, Twitter