Article: Big Bash League swinging for the fences: A case study in marketing and branding

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This article written by John Nelder originally appeared on SmartCompany here, featuring commentary from Good Things Marketing's CEO Helen Ahrens.

If the latest TV ratings are anything to go by, the Big Bash League’s hitting just as many boundaries off the cricket field as on it.

Fairfax reports Tuesday’s season opener reached a peak audience of 1.44 million, up 15% on last year’s first game. And with negotiations for the next TV deal on the horizon, Cricket Australia could be sitting on a hell of a good wicket with the shorter, entertainment fuelled format.

But really it’s the marketing behind the sport that’s driving this cricketing renaissance. So we spoke to some experts to find out what’s behind this growing popularity for the BBL and other sporting success stories like it.

Brand repositioning

Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels says the Big Bash’s success is a classic case of repositioning a brand. She says while cricket has long been a classic summer sport, it was also the victim of slowly declining viewership and in desperate need of a brand refresh.

“They’ve done that very successfully in terms of using bright colours and changing the format to a faster game. It’s a bit like going to a baseball game in the States,” she says.

But crucially, she says, the governing body has built this new brand from the ground up, promoting it at the grassroots level of the game right up to the national elite level of the sport.

“I see guys playing cricket in Big Bash branded uniforms at my local oval on a Friday afternoon. So that branding across all levels of the game builds brand consistency, brand recall and brand awareness. It’s classic strong branding,” she says.

Knowing the audience

It’s also no coincidence the Big Bash’s fast, snappy approach to the game is perfect for the family audience it’s targeting. Good Things Marketing chief executive Helen Ahrens refers to this form of content as being of the ‘snackable’ variety.

“It’s a trend we’re seeing across all industries — marketing and media is becoming short, sweet and easily accessible,” she says.

And it’s that snappiness, she says, that appeals to wide cricketing audience.

“It’s about targeting a family audience that are looking for an experience together. You can take the kids and grandma and have a really nice day,” she explains.

“Clearly they understand their audience. And often with sports like these, there’s very strategic planning going on the background in terms of data to reach that point of understanding.”

Building a media brand

The Big Bash’s apparent successes clearly bode well for the next TV rights deal. But as Michelle Gamble explains, this sport and others like it are fast becoming media channels in and of themselves.

“With the fragmentation of media and so much content going online, it’s now more about creating your own content and audience separate from the TV audience”, she says.

“Social media is a huge part of that. And pushing those eyeballs across your own channels versus having it on various outlet media channels.”

Already the World Surf League is making huge strides on that front. It’s an example of taking control of your own content delivery.

“They have their own media brand and so they don’t need to sell the rights to any of the major surfing competitions or to any of the media brands,” she says.

“So if you want to watch Kelly Slater surf the Pipe Masters, you just have to log on to the WSL website and then they can attract major sponsors to their brand.”