The recent success of the third season of the Australian domestic Twenty20 competition, the Big Bash League (BBL), provides some key insights for rights holders and sponsors. With T20 and 7’s rugby alike both making a play for the hearts and wallets of the UK sports and entertainment fan, what are some of the key lessons can we take from this success?
1. TV STRATEGY: GO WHERE THE MILLENNIALS ARE
Cricket Australia (CA) evolved the local broadcast rights from subscription TV where the product cut its teeth and proved itself over the first 2 seasons, through to a free to air deal with Channel 10 last season, resulting in the sport quadrupling its TV audience. Interestingly, Channel 10 has traditionally focussed on entertainment content targeting their core audience of 18-35 year olds, with limited sporting rights. The BBL has provided a viable sport product for Channel 10 to invest in rights, and provided CA with rights attractive beyond its long term traditional broadcast partner in Channel 9.
Smart scheduling ensured games were on air at 7.30pm nightly over the summer holiday period, meaning families were home and tuning in, averaging 800,000 viewers a night. Just as importantly, match attendance increased compared to last season proving whilst the broadcast rights were important in delivering mass exposure for the sport, fans still flocked to the games.
2. SENSORY OVERLOAD BUILT IN TO THE EVENT
Fan engagement is playing a major role, with rights holders investing heavily in delivering a diversified sports and entertainment product that is appealing to a broad market. From on-field Motorcross demonstrations, venue event presentation (AC/DC anyone?) to player accessibility and interaction with fans throughout the match means that often the end result, and who is actually playing, becomes secondary to the sensory overload provided at the venue.
3. CA IS BETTING BIG TO WIN BIG
CA is committed to investing in its newest product to ensure viability. Over the first 3 seasons CA has invested $80m AUD to deliver a product that is yet to wash its face commercially. Although with free to air broadcast rights in place, key foundation sponsors such as KFC investing in its future, and the key metrics of broadcast and match attendance all growing healthily, it is an attractive product for sponsors. It’s also attracting and engaging a new audience, acting as the “gateway” product for fans who CA are banking on ultimately delivering increased interest and return across its traditional offering of Test and ODI fixtures.
4. A POTENTIAL FEAST FOR RIGHTS HOLDERS
Twenty20 provides a great opportunity to grow commercial sponsorship revenue if sponsorship category rights are managed effectively. The focus and access to a non-traditional cricket audience opens up the appeal of such rights to non-traditional cricket sponsors. KFC, although involved in CA rights at Official Supplier status prior to the BBL, have now grown their investment in the game off the back of the T20 game to acquire naming rights of the BBL and the Australian T20 team. Other brands such as New Era caps (who traditionally would have steered clear of the perceived traditional stuffiness of the game of cricket) have recognised the opportunity and investing in the game. Rights holders (both CA and the teams themselves), have predominantly attracted new partners to the game rather than gone back to the well of existing sponsors.
Certainly on face value the BBL is delivering on CA’s core objective of “growing the game” both from an audience and commercial perspective. The challenge will be for CA and other rights holders to maintain the momentum, particularly as other sports try and emulate their success.
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