Marketers (urgently) wanted: to save the game…

My friend, the late Doug Lehmann (former CEO of Peter Lehmann Wines and son of the great Peter, himself) once said to me during our frequent early morning walks in Tanunda, in the Barossa Valley “Up to a point, any bugger can make a good wine – the hard part is selling it!”.

Over the past eleven or twelve years as a business coach, having had the good fortune to look closely (but objectively) at 60 or 70 small businesses, I can see that his assessment applies, not just to the wine industry, but to every business. Most people running businesses are, generally speaking, fairly good at what they do. In many cases, they are not so good at running the show and, in even far greater numbers, they are very poor when it comes to marketing.

This applies across the board: to small family businesses; to larger, more developed enterprises; to not-for-profits; to sporting organisations. Ah, yes – the sporting groups. In this case, to my sport of choice – cricket.

What an abominable job cricket does of advertising its product!

Over the years, cricket has been the premier summer sport for males in Australia. 50 years ago, we sat, glued to the radio and kept score of every Test Match and Sheffield Shield contest that took place over each summer. This scenario went to another level with the game coming to television and this reached fever pitch with Kerry Packer’s World Series in the late 1970’s. During this period, every young boy in the country was exposed to the game and many of them continued to play the game as older “couldabeens”. In every case, the game was loved, debated and dissected by a large portion of the country. It truly was the nations’ game.

How things have changed!

For a start, take the World Cup, currently being jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, as an example: only the privileged few who choose (and can afford) to have pay television can view the once-in-every-twenty-year event when cricketing countries get the chance to host the Cup. Only the games in which Australia plays are free to air. If the sport’s governing body was serious about promoting the sport – rather than gaining the millions of dollars from TV rights – they would ensure that every game was free to air in every host country. If they had the long term interests of the game at heart, they would do their utmost to ensure that as many young people could watch the very best, develop heroes and dream of one day, representing their country.

Instead, greedy, lax, incompetent and narrow-minded so-called administrators are far more interested in feathering their own nests, living the high life and building a financial empire, all at the expense of the game. While this criticism might not apply to every one of those at the highest level, those who have the power are destroying its future – even if they ate not aware of it. This attitude will, in fact, be demise of the game.

In Australia, for example, the once great supporter of cricket – the ABC – now favours broadcasting soccer in summer months, leaving us to get infrequent cricket scores in snippets. Cricket clubs are struggling to grow the game with little or no support at the grass roots level. And in Western Australia, our local association allows each season to commence and end with little information provided through the media, let alone heralding these seasonal high points with any fanfare.

As I write this bitter piece (and I do not consider myself a bitter person) I am struggling to get commentary on the Sheffield Shield final in which the state is competing. This event, which once would have been the second or third most important sporting event in the country, battles to get air play. Young potential cricketers will, understandably, turn away from (or fail to be introduced to) the game as a result.

And all of this comes as a result of not realising how vitally important – even fundamental – marketing is in growing the product and a competitive market place. Those at the high level of cricket have a responsibility to the game and to all of those for whom it has a part of their lives and their cultures.

Aristotle is attributed to have said “Know Thyself” as the basis for human existence. In a similar vein, marketers would say “Know Thy Customer” as the basis to marketing any product or service. However, there is little or no evidence that cricket administrators truly understand those who have followed and loved the game. Nor is there evidence that they are making any attempt to market the game to ensure its health, prosperity and longevity.

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What John Matthew believes about small business

That the owner has risked many things that others take for granted;

That there is no guaranteed income or reward for the considerable effort that is required;

That often, the family home is on the line to support the business and its constituents;

That there is a dignity and self-respect that is earned;

That entire communities would be better places if there was an increased appreciation and respect for small business.

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