11.14.17 - Comments Off on The commercial opportunity of women’s cricket
The cricket landscape is evolving and we are at the beginning of a transformational period for the game, particularly when it comes to women and girls’ cricket. 1.1 million people tuned into Sky Sports to watch hosts England win the ICC 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup. Three times more people than watched the final day of England men’s victory over South Africa in the first Test of the series at Lord's. 26,000 attended the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup Final at Lord’s, where 50% of tickets were bought by women. 30,000 people visited ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup fan zones in host cities - Bristol, Leicester, Derby and Taunton. So, what’s the opportunity for rights holders and brands?
From a national perspective, the most exciting opportunity is the Kia Super League, a domestic city-based competition which began its inaugural season in 2016.
While expansion plans for 2018 have been announced, there is ambiguity around the future structure of the competition. Speculation would suggest that the ECB will integrate a men’s and women’s city-based competition under one brand, replicating the successful Australian Big Bash Leagues. However, it still uncertain whether the men’s and women’s leagues will be packaged separately, reflecting the commercial model in Australia, where Rebel Sport is naming rights for the WBBL.
While the hugely successful Women’s Big Bash League does provide a great competition blueprint, it alone is not the panacea to increasing engagement of women and girls. The WBBL was built on the foundations of a comprehensive national women and girls’ strategy. The National Female Cricket Strategy, launched in 2014, set out a top to bottom blueprint for increasing female engagement, including: attracting more women and girls to the game; improving pathways, coaching and facilities; increasing profile of players; increasing TV exposure; and ensuring strong female representation in the governance of the game. Strengthening the women's game now sits at the centre of Cricket Australia's organisation wide five-year strategy, which sets direction of the game through until 2022. While the ECB’s is clearly taking lessons from Australia, replicating the Big Bash Leagues and reincarnating In2Cricket as ECB All Stars, it sounds unlikely that a national strategy for female engagement is on the horizon.
From a county perspective, there is disparity both in terms of commitment to women and girls’ cricket and the quality of the commercial structures in place to support it.
A small number of clubs, like Middlesex Cricket, have started to unbundle their rights in order to provide partners with opportunity to use women and girls’ cricket as a passion point for connecting with consumers. Whether that is a partnership with their county women’s team, participation in corporate leagues designed to help women use cricket as a lever into leadership or investment into grassroots community and school initiatives.
County level women and girls’ cricket partnerships, when packaged effectively, can provide brands, particularly those where building a local community connection is key, with cost-effective opportunities to connect with consumers. As well as providing an opportunity to drive exposure through multi-dimensional conversation on women’s sport.
From a talent perspective, there are some some great female role models, such as Women’s Cricket World Cup winners Danielle Wyatt, Anya Shrubsole and Tammy Beaumont. The opportunity for both rights holders and brands, is to support players like these to grow their public profiles, in turn enabling them to inspire even more women and girls.
If we use Australia's blueprint as a foundation, the future for women’s cricket is bright. However, in order to realise the same commercial success, we need to not only learn from Australia’s participation pathways and competition structures, we also need to ensure we mirror investment and implement a top to bottom strategy for female engagement. Enabling us to not only accelerate the development of women and girls' cricket, but also to de-throne Australia as leaders in this space.