Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month, in Australia at least, you will have heard about the Big Bash League. Australia’s premier T20 Cricket Competition has taken off like a rocket and is now in its seventh season (for the male players). This hugely popular format of an ancient sport (I mean that in a positive way) has been taken to the next level by Cricket Australia and I can’t help but sit back in awe and marvel at some of the learnings we can all take away from the BBL.
So, as I write this, the Sydney Sixers are playing the Melbourne Renegades in the background, here are five 5 things I have learned from the BBL.
1. Give the fans what they want
The crowd attendance and TV viewership are evidence enough that if you listen to fans, and react to what they see as desirable, there is potential for a very successful product. This format is aimed perfectly at families and anyone who simply enjoys entertainment (it helps if you don’t mind a little bit of cricket though). The result is that the Big Bash sits at number seven on the list of top sports league average attendances in the world.
Cricket Australia has managed to position the BBL perfectly during a very rare slow period in the Australian sporting calendar, and, as such, it has pretty much taken over from the A-League as the sport to watch during Christmas. Furthermore, there are matches on almost every day of the Christmas period, providing access for fans during a key down time of the year. In fact, combined with other cricket formats, we are currently in a run of 33 consecutive days of Cricket on TV.
2. Fan engagement can come in many shapes and sizes
I haven’t been lucky enough to attend a BBL match this season but, from all of the social media exposure and TV coverage, it is clear that the BBL Franchises and Cricket Australia have really done their homework on how to engage fans.
Take the Brisbane Heat for example (a huge shout out to Blair Hughes for this one – check him out for a heap of other great activation pieces). During a match day, the Heat cover off:
- family physical activations zones;
- a variety of giveaways;
- utilising digital via social filters;
- refreshed catering options;
- use of VR/AR; and
- an actual pool deck where you can sit in the water and watch the cricket!
It is obviously difficult to replicate all of this in other locations and on match days, however, huge credit has to be given for the level of engagement across the board by the BBL.
3. The growth of female sport
You could argue that the Womens BBL (WBBL) was one of the catalysts for the recent rise in popularity and respect given for the female format of a number of sports (although, there are numerous other factors which have contributed). One thing is certain though, Cricket Australia have made the most of utilising an altered format of the game to provide a fantastic platform to spruik the ability and entertainment that the female players provide for us all.
The way that Cricket Australia has brought the WBBL up to such a high standard, in such a short period, has to be commended. Furthermore, the way that the franchises are able to deliver a match day that includes both genders allows for them to grow the fan base across both teams. The WBBL is not a curtain raiser but a genuinely entertaining and skilful product in its own right. Hopefully, this has opened the door for other sports to follow.
4. The franchise model can work
Sydney Sixers, Perth Scorchers, Melbourne Renegades. These are not sporting clubs that have been around for decades. They are not steeped in tradition and history. When you look at the families, however, young fans and genuinely engaged fan groups on the TV, try asking them if that makes a difference to their level of passion for THEIR team.
The tribal following that has been generated for the BBL franchises is a lesson that should be taken on board by a number of other sports on how to create a new fans and engagement without also losing the traditional following.
5. Commercial opportunities vs. ambush marketing
I am a sucker for over analysing the branding, advertising and signage at any sporting event, whether it be live or on TV (just ask my wife; she loves it). Therefore, I can’t help but notice the plethora of brands that are involved in the BBL and WBBL. There are commercial partners from a variety of industries that you may not expect; until recently, the Sydney Sixers major partner was a pet food company. There are, however, a fair few partners that have been around cricket for a while e.g. KFC. The popularity of the BBL and WBBL has meant that commercial partners are seeing the value in being involved and, as such, we are lucky enough to see some really creative partnerships form.
With this popularity, however, also comes the potential for ambush marketing. What we are seeing on the broadcast at the moment is a number of competing brands from similar (sometimes exactly the same) industries trying to break into this space. Take Holden for example. They are a presenting partner of the BBL on Chanel 10 and their logo appears at the beginning of every broadcast. Holden is not a CA partner and is, instead, a direct competitor to Toyota (a long-standing CA partner). Furthermore, AHM (health insurance) are doing some great telecast activations (namely the classic crowd catch) but, again, they are in direct competition to Bupa who is a CA partner.
I am not saying that this isn’t above board, but it does provide a little lesson for other sports to be mindful of how your partners are able to support you and still utilise broadcast rights as well. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise for those sports who do not have a broadcast rights deal.
The BBL and WBBL is an outstanding entertainment package (not just a sport) and the reason for its success is far wider ranging than simply making the game of cricket shorter. As other sports start to really focus their efforts on bringing modified formats of their game to the public, it would prove valuable to look at how the BBL has been successful past simply reducing the time taken to consume a match.
Now I’m off to watch the end of a thriller (hopefully).
Image: credit http://www.brisbaneheat.com.au/cua-pool-deck
Sam Irvine // GM of Product
Sam is passionate about helping organisations maximise their sponsorship programs and has worked with brands and rights holders at all levels. Sam is always looking for ways to improve himself and loves working with people who give as much as they take.
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