England’s Ashes win is a dream for sponsors
Ashes triumphs and No1 rankings for England’s cricketers have made sponsorship of the sport more appealing to brands and have raised the sport’s profile at aAshes triumphs and No1 rankings for England’s cricketers have made sponsorship of the sport more appealing to brands and have raised the sport’s profile at a grass-roots level grass-roots level
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England’s stunning and unexpected victory in the Ashes is helping to fuel hopes of increased grass-roots participation in cricket.
The tide had already begun to turn in recent years, with the success of the Twenty20 format and other initiatives making the sport more accessible, engaging cricket followers and boosting attendances.
The heroics of the likes of Stuart Broad and Joe Root against Australia, and a good performance in the women’s Ashes series, which began last month and is contested across all formats – one-day, Test and Twenty20 – could help the men’s and women’s games to build on these foundations, with growing popularity feeding higher participation levels.
This could create a virtuous circle, with sponsors and other commercial partners becoming attracted not only by association with a quintessentially English pursuit, but also by the passionate following that can stem from a team’s success.
While the media tend to focus on the men’s game, England’s women are a powerhouse, and their success in the 2013 Ashes against Australia followed a World Cup victory in 2009 and earning the world No1 ranking.
According to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), 63,000 British girls and women over 14 now play cricket. So what are cricket clubs, the ECB and the national cricket sides doing to boost participation? How can brands get involved and what are the commercial benefits?
Recent programmes have focused on further raising female involvement in cricket, which accounted for only 7pc of grass-roots participants in 2013. More than 600 cricket clubs in the UK have women’s or girls’ sections, compared with 90 in 2003, while the Chance to Shine programme, run by the Cricket Foundation charity and part-funded by the ECB, has delivered cricket lessons to more than two million children in 7,000 UK schools since 2005. About 160,000 schoolgirls are coached via the programme each year.
Cricket’s raised participation and profile is good news for sponsorship. Waitrose backs the England men’s team, NatWest Bank the Twenty20 game, Specsavers is an ECB commercial partner and Kia Motors has sponsored Surrey and the Kia Oval since 2011.
Last year, Kia also signed a six-figure, two-year contract in the first standalone commercial deal for the England women’s team, becoming sole title sponsor of England women’s home Tests and the Ashes series.
“Cricket has been very successful for us,” says Paul Philpott, president and chief executive of Kia Motors UK.
600 cricket clubs in the UK have women’s or girls’ sections, compared with 90 in 2003
“Kia has only been selling cars in the UK since 1991. As a young brand, setting up a presence in London was quite challenging. That was behind our reasoning to do the cricket sponsorships and it’s been a really successful tie-up. We now have 184 UK dealerships and this year we are on track to exceed 80,000 car sales for the first time.”
Clare Connor, the ECB’s head of England women’s cricket, sees the Kia deal as a landmark sponsorship that, together with the introduction of professional contracts for England women’s players and the announcement of a new women’s Super League next summer, signifies a period of transformative growth for the women’s game.
She says: “The partnership demonstrates the commercial credibility and viability of the women’s game.”
Bang & Olufsen also sees great value in supporting cricket, and has become an official supplier to England women’s cricket team, with a range of marketing and sponsorship rights. Andrew Macer, Bang & Olufsen’s UK and Ireland sales manager, says: “We aim to be the best in our field, so it was vital that the team we chose to partner our brand shared these same values.”
Returning good figures
Smart organisations are differentiating themselves from their competitors. One of the best ways to do that is by getting involved early with women’s cricket and other women’s sports. Compared with the men’s game, there is minimal investment and considerable positive brand association to be had.
Return on investment can be said to be reputational. With the 2017 World cup coming to England, smart brands will be considering getting on board and enjoying the wave as the tournament draws closer.