Looks like the big changes in the world of global cricket marketing I talked about in May, are gathering momentum. Bloomberg News has a lengthy feature piece on how cricket is being rapidly re-made in it's new form, Twenty20, in arguably it's largest market, India. An excerpt:
"The Indian league's performance this year is shaking up cricket. With Twenty20, India has turned the tables on England, which invented the sport more than four centuries ago and has controlled the game for much of its history in the former British colonies where it's played.
As India, the world's biggest cricket market, flexes its muscles -- IPL's revenue of about $200 million is an all-time high for a single season in the sport..."
"In India, which has a population of almost 1.2 billion, fans are so smitten with the sport that national Twenty20 team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has a detail of five female bodyguards to protect him from the legions of teenage girls who besiege him wherever he goes. "
The organizers are pulling out all stops to market this new form of cricket, including importing cheerleaders from American football teams to pep up the home games.
Much of this is about money, as the story explains:
"The rapid-fire appeal of a Twenty20 match, which always concludes with a winner, threatens the long-term prospects of traditional Test cricket. This game features men in white sweaters and trousers who take lunch and tea breaks in matches that often end in draws.
Cricket, which is played professionally in Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the U.K., the West Indies and Zimbabwe, remains a niche sport elsewhere. It brought in only about $700 million in revenue from all countries in 2007, according to the sport's ruling bodies, far less than the $6 billion for Major League Baseball.
But Twenty20 -- which started in England in 2003 before migrating to other countries -- may be a game changer.
``Twenty20 is the product that can take cricket into new markets,'' says Paul Marsh, head of the Australian Cricketers' Association, which represents the country's professional players. ``Baseball and Twenty20 take about the same time, but it's beyond belief to me that someone could find baseball more exciting.''
Investors and broadcasters can't get enough of Twenty20. In January 2008, the Board of Control for Cricket in India, which runs the IPL, sold its broadcast rights to Sony Corp. and World Sport Group, a Singapore-based marketer, for $1 billion over 10 years. ESPN Inc. and News Corp.'s Star Sports network, which have a joint venture in India, followed in September with a deal worth almost $1 billion to broadcast a new tournament called the Champions League later this year."
The story goes on to highlight the global list of billionaires who've invested in re-making cricket in India:
"Billionaires and Bollywood
Modi, a BCCI vice president, auctioned off the league's eight clubs in 2008 to an A-list group of investors. Indian billionaire Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd.; Bollywood film star Shah Rukh Khan; and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch's son Lachlan Murdoch were among the investors who spent about $724 million for the franchises.
``India is clearly the economic powerhouse in world cricket,'' says Manoj Badale, managing partner of Blenheim Chalcot Ltd., a venture capital firm in London that led a consortium including Murdoch that bought the Rajasthan Royals franchise for $67 million in January.
Twenty20's potential payoff has also enticed Allen Stanford, chairman of Houston-based investment firm Stanford Financial Group Co. Stanford put up a $20 million purse for a private, winner-takes-all match in Antigua."
Looks like it's game, set, and match.