Cricket: Poor performance grim news for governing body

New Zealand's underachieving national side is grim news for its governing body, not only on the park but off it. Photo / Getty Images
New Zealand's underachieving national side is grim news for its governing body, not only on the park but off it. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand's underachieving national side is grim news for its governing body, not only on the park but off it.

Two prominent branding and communications experts believe New Zealand Cricket's brand is in poor shape. If a team's performances are relentlessly poor the marketplace remembers, and acts accordingly.

"If it is becoming increasingly a big stretch to put your weight behind them, so the audience is down," Martin Gillman, of Mitchener Gillman Communications, said. "That means TV companies who pay for rights to broadcast games won't attract as much advertising revenue, therefore the value to TV companies is less, and they'll pay less.

"When it comes to renegotiating next time they'll take into account what commercial value it was. If you're not performing that well and people aren't watching, they'll get less revenue. It's very straightforward."

Gillman said having a well-run off-field setup and being a strong performer on the park go hand in hand and was essential for a successful operation.

Dave Bibby, senior lecturer in advertising, marketing and communications at the Auckland Institute of Technology, reckons NZC have big problems.

"I would say, yes, it is in a parlous state," he said. "Perceptions are negative. All brands have to perform a function. If they don't do it very well, then people will give it away.

"The performance function of a team is that it needs to win matches to give it credibility and prestige and that the fans can enjoy and support. I would say on that score alone, the brand is not performing the basic function."

Gillman talked of the importance of sport to national identity.

"The All Blacks have enormous value to New Zealand Inc, but the Black Caps don't," he said. "In days gone by when Richard Hadlee was playing it was fantastic; when Mark Greatbatch was knocking it out of the park it was brilliant as well.

"Unfortunately the last few years have been lean. If you're not doing well it makes it even harder to climb back up because you lose financial support. Lose that and you lose players."

That was a danger even for the All Blacks, but Gillman pointed out there remains great pride and increasing financial incentives for players to stay in top rugby.

"In cricket, that's not there. The crowds aren't there, the TV appeal has dropped away, so revenue-earning potential isn't affected for this season; it's affected for the next two or three seasons.

"We are not psychologically well-suited to supporting teams who aren't at the peak of their performance, which is a great shame."

Gillman called solid, capable governance of a sport "a given. It has to be well run, that's the entry fee, if you like".

Bibby rates himself an interested cricket observer, if far from fanatical. In those terms, New Zealand's performance leaves him unimpressed.

"I just yawn and read about it in the paper because I just can't be bothered. Until they do [produce several good wins] people are just going to say 'well what else could you expect?"'

Bibby contrasts the All Blacks and the cricketers when discussing the role of sponsors. Bottom line: they want to be associated with winners. "Perceptions are the reality. The idea of sponsorship is you support a team so you can connect with the fans of that team.

"Think of adidas and the All Blacks. The All Blacks are just a vehicle so they can get a halo of good will from the fans. That's how sponsorship works. Why would anybody of an international brand want to sponsor the Black Caps with their current performance record?

"That's why the All Blacks can command money from AIG on top of money they're getting from adidas, because they've got the best winning record of any sports team ever."

Prominent sports agent Greg Dyer of Essentially Group argues New Zealand cricket has not become a harder sell within this country. "It's still our No1 summer game. Lots of kids still play and watch it," he said.

"The Global Economic Crisis has had a far more profound effect than the ups and downs of the national team."

Overseas may be a different story. It is understood a couple of international deals were pulled off the NZC table after the disastrous 4-0 ODI loss in Bangladesh in late 2010.

"The game's in a reasonably good position, but it would have a positive flow-on effect if they were playing well," Dyer added.

While he fingers the players as having to get their house in order, Bibby said a hard look at NZC's personnel was also required. "It's the job of the organisation to put the right people in place and have a strategic understanding of the sport.

"Obviously someone is not reading the game right."

Special Report: The Shame Game
Yesterday
The Herald series began with an analysis of the breakdown between NZC and the game's fans, and asked whether this is indeed the worst era in New Zealand's test history.

Tomorrow
The state of the game at grassroots and junior level, and has NZC sufficiently tapped into the Maori and Pacific Island talent pool.

- NZ Herald

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