Went to see the Pakis play WA at the WACA yesterday; first time I’d been to the ground in a long time. The redevelopment has the place looking very smart; I liked the use of the flat grassed area kids can use to play cricket while their parents watch the serious stuff.
The match was poorly attended (maybe 150 in the crowd). Attendance is also a problem for Pura Cup matches; it’s no secret the game is in trouble at this level. So what can the cricket administrators do about it? Here are a few marketing thoughts.
1. You can’t expect people to come to see an event in the same format as a test match but with lesser known players. You need to differentiate the game. You need to offer the public a different format.
2. No crowd = no atmosphere. There is no shame in giving away free tickets and that’s what you should be doing in large numbers. It’s already cheap ($8) and you need to take maximum PR advantage of that. It’s not that people can’t afford the money, it’s that they can’t afford the time! Who can take a whole day off to watch the cricket? But the idea of buying a full day ticket and then wasting 2/3 of your money is anathema. You should be able to buy a session ticket for $3. This could be done on an honor basis (after all, it’s cricket).
2. You need to generate more involvement. Get up close and personal. It’s the character of the players that engages the crowd. The characters need to be magnified for this to happen. The day I went, Shoaib Akhtar was bowling. One of the fastest, meanest dudes in international cricket. Not having a pair of binoculars I went home without seeing his face! You need to hire out binoculars or better, have coin-operated/credit card operated binoculars on tripods around the ground. This is more involving than a big screen because YOU decide what you’re looking at. Cherchez le sponsor.
3. Amplify the sounds! Why can’t we hear what umpires say when they give a decision? Why can’t we hear the frustration of players and their encouragements to each other? Yes I know this is something that would need to be negotiated with players but they need to understand it will improve the popularity of the game with strong flow-on benefits for players. Standards of behaviour would also improve. Easier to introduce at this level than at test level.
4. Lunch entertainment. Currently kanga cricket. No introduction, explanation or commentary. Not very compelling. There is a commentator during play but I think he said ten sentences during the time I was there (3 hours). During lunch, he could have been giving us cricket anecdotes or selling us seats to the forthcoming match.
What about some outfield catching at lunch? Or some catching using slips machines? Or invite the crowd on to the ground (!) to play french cricket with tennis balls.
5. Themes. Introduce some variation. First day’s play: Music. Music and percussion in the crowd. There are hundreds of buskers in Perth. Why can’t they entertain people during play? Second day’s play: Whites. Everyone in the crowd to wear white. Third day’s play: ladies’ day. No men admitted. Fourth day’s play: Anyway, you get the idea.
6. Merchandising. When Pakistan play, why don’t you invite all the people importing clothing from Pakistan to run a bazaar in marquees around the ground? There is a misunderstanding about merchandise in the sporting world. People think it’s about locking up an exclusive licensing arrangement. It’s not. It’s about making your sport as cool as possible.
7. Technology. There are some terrific things happening in the area of interactive signage. I can’t imagine a more promising area for this emerging medium than cricket. Where else do people sit in the same area for 5 days surrounded by signage? I think there are also opportunities in allowing people to interact with the scoreboard but I think signage is the major opportunity.
The trick to all this is to bundle up your exciting new stuff in a single launch in order to generate maximum PR exposure. I’d probably call it New Cricket.