For many of Britain’s sport enthusiasts, the May Day bank holiday signals a weekend spent glued to the TV watching the World Snooker Championship final. For the players, a Crucible final is the pinnacle of their career – not only for the event’s history and tradition, the privilege of playing in the famous auditorium and the ranking points on offer, but also the financial reward (£250,000 to be exact) that now comes with lifting the trophy. Thanks to the leadership and entrepreneurial nous of World Snooker chairman and Matchroom Sport chief executive Barry Hearn, the financial boundaries in the sport have been stretched significantly over the past few years and the best players in the world are finally being suitably rewarded for their skill, professionalism and hard work.
Whether you are a snooker fan or an occasional viewer, it would have been difficult to ignore the past seventeen days of action at The Crucible Theatre. The tournament was certainly not short of talking points given the emergence of new characters like Dechawat Poomjaeng, complaints about player burnout, static shocks and the fairytale return of the ‘golden boy’ of snooker, Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Behind the scenes, the Synergy team were hard at work delivering the PR activity to amplify Betfair’s sponsorship of the World Championship. As Barry Hearn continues to raise the financial stakes, Synergy tapped into the snooker psyche to develop the ‘Betfair Golden Cue’. Inspired by the players’ James Bond-style attire, Betfair gave snooker’s biggest stars the chance to become the first ‘Man with the Golden Cue’. This unique prize and a £10,000 cheque were on offer for the highest individual break during the tournament.
Given that a golden cue is not something you’d be able to find down your local Argos, we were indebted to John Parris, founder of Parris Cues, for undertaking the painstaking process of coating the cue in 23 carat gold leaf and producing such a high-quality cue. Designed to add some extra sparkle (or as Ronnie would say, “pizzazz”) to snooker’s flagship event, the Betfair Golden Cue took pride of place on set and became part of the conversation throughout the tournament, with BBC’s Hazel Irvine making regular references to it. In the first week, there were two early contenders for the prize with Ricky Walden’s impressive break of 140 quickly followed by a 142 break from the flamboyant Judd Trump.
As the high breaks continued, Twitter came to life with speculation from fans and snooker bloggers alike on who would win the Betfair Golden Cue. The cue itself became an object of mystery throughout the tournament, with speculation over its origin and manufacture maintaining the social media conversation. Consequently, Synergy placed another order with Parris Cues for a cue to give away on Betfair’s social channels, giving the lucky winner the chance to get their own gold-leafed memento from the tournament. At the time of writing, the social media giveaway has proved to be Betfair’s most successful yet, across all sports.
As title sponsors, Betfair offered a market on the Golden Cue winner, giving punters the chance to place early bets on pre-tournament high-break favourites with O’Sullivan available at 8/1, Judd Trump at 9/1 and Mark Williams at 12/1. Despite the strong early showings from Ricky Walden and Judd Trump, neither could prevent the explosive Australian, Neil Robertson, from stealing the prize. Indeed, despite quality cue play on show throughout the tournament (in total 55 century breaks were recorded), no one could surpass Robertson’s break of 143.
Although the tournament did not see a magical 147 break, snooker fans were still treated to a masterclass from O’Sullivan, who performed at his mercurial best to claim a fifth World Championship title. Indeed, the Betfair Golden Cue may have gone to Robertson but there’s no doubt that the Betfair World Champion, the ‘Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan, remains snooker’s ‘golden boy’.
By Lewis Davey on May 10th, 2013