Wednesday, 14 April 2010

West Indies Cricket: A Brand in Need of Help

Is it just me or does anyone else feel like the ICC Twenty/20 World Cup is happening somewhere else? Is it really starting in the West Indies in a couple weeks? Am I missing something? I mean, sure we are in the midst of election mania here in Trinidad and Tobago, but even before that, with the exception of the lone promotional video with Gravy or Blue Food or whoever, there seems to be quite a laid back feeling. That's in my world, anyway. It may be different for you.

So I decided to do some digging from an online perspective. What I found was rather disturbing to say the least. I decided not to go to the WICB's website first. I decided to see if they had a presence on Facebook. Why? Over the years, there have been those who say the sport is dying in the region. Test cricket is not sexy to young people. The idea of sitting watching the lovely game over a 5-day stretch does not appeal to them. One day cricket is still entertaining but the team's "prowess" has not been consistent enough to keep the interest, loyalty and support of some fans. In comes Twenty/20 which seems to have injected some new life into the game and has brought a new legion of fans - what I call the "instant" crew. Instant coffee, instant meals, instant cricket. Half day of cricket is perfect for them, not to mention exciting, with a faster pace and big displays of ego with the bat and ball. Maybe not beautiful cricket but popular cricket. But this is not about the game and where it's going. This is about the game and where it is from a marketing perspective especially when one thinks about this segment of the market that is disillusioned with the game and have turned to other avenues for excitement.

So I turned to Facebook. Before I even got to West Indies cricket, I checked these pages first:

- Chelsea FC
- Arsenal FC
-FC Barcelona
- Soca Warriors

Chelsea's Page is fantastic. Not only is beautifully laid out, with rich photos and video, but it is current, interactive and has exclusive content. Over 660,000 fans who are active and passionate about their love for the team.

FC Barcelona's page is stunning and has over 1.6million fans. Again, current info, great content.

And while the T&T Soca Warriors are not in the same league as their European club colleagues, their Page at least has some currency and hosts updates of our local ballers's activities in their respective clubs etc. We don't have much to boast of as a team these days, being out of the WC and all, but that does not mean the Page had to die either. Good job, Soca Warriors.

So after going to where a lot of the young people's interest lie these days, I looked for WI cricket.

(shakes head)

Goodness. The site has nothing! Nada! Nil! The hard part about it, is they have over 8,000 fans - people who have an interest and want to know what's up. The site is basically an online forum with just the fans contributing, hoping, waiting, praying that someone out there in WI cricket world will post a photo, a video, an article - ANYTHING. So while they are where their untapped market spends most of their day, they aren't REALLY there. Sad. Such potential for fans to get to know the players on a more personal level, get some insight into their coaching schedules, how they feel about upcoming tournaments, maybe excite some with some exclusive offers. But nope...there was nothing at all.

So then I said, maybe their website is so fab that the FB Page was unnecessary. Get there and the page has some potential. I see some video, some current content - news, ticket info, updates. Good. I wanted to learn more about the ICC T20 tournament so clicked on the banner ad. Before I start on that, let me just say, I know that the ICC probably does have rights over what the WICB can do or say as it relates to this tournament. Based on how the ODI World Cup went a few years ago, with all the restrictions, I can bet they are probably muzzled...

But...the WI cricket team is still yours and though I don't know to what extent the Board can promote the tournament (who knows, maybe they can, maybe they can't), they can still promote the team and their chances which, I am not hesitant to say, are good in this drive-by form of the game.

So clicked on the banner ad.Of course it goes to the ICC site, which is of course a general site with info on all the teams. There is an ICC Facebook Page and Twitter stream for the tournament, again, for the tournament as a whole. You can send your messages to your team, wishing them luck in their games and so on. But that's it. Nothing branded in the maroon and green. Nothing for the fans of the WI squad on the WICB's website.

No video from our infamous captain, or the coaches. Nothing from the young players who are the role models for the young people we so desperately need to attract to the game. No T-20 forum or discussion board for fans besides the fans-only FB page. Just a static page in this age of social internet platforms. It was pretty depressing especially when competing with the bells and whistles of a page like Chelsea FC. Cricket Australia's site, though not quite that current, still has some content with over 45,000 fans giving their feedback quite regularly. So it's not a cricket thing. It's a WI thing! Epic fail!

The performance of the team over the past few years has not engendered any hope and passion either, and is it any wonder that people will turn towards exciting games with high performing teams like Chelsea FC? At the same time, out of sight, out of mind. If we only hear about the team when they have either a strike or a loss, which is usually all we hear these days, then the brand is being denigrated. As marketers, the responsibility should be on building on the positive elements of the brand and the game and using it to the team's advantage, to the advantage of the WI brand and to the advantage of the game in the region, especially among those who did not grow up knowing about Viv or Des, or who have, because of such bad performance (and, even forgotten Brian.

Or have we just completely given up on this team and cannot be bothered to work on strengthening their brand, as best as we could?

Well, I will make my own plug here to my 10.5 readers. The ICC 2010 Twenty/20 tournament starts in the West Indies on Friday April 30 and will run until Sunday May 16. Good luck to the West Indies cricket team. Hope to hear from from you somewhere, from someone. I have bashed you in the recent past, but I am still a fan and it would be good if your Board would do some work on marketing and strengthening your brand, so that more of us know who you are, what you're up to and how you feel about the beautiful game - and not just about how horrendous your performances have been. Maybe then, I will not be so quick to judge you, your captain and your management because I would feel an affinity or...something.


Girl, you still with these people?

You are absolutely correct of course, you would think, that apart from the World Cup, the WICB would have a fan page for the team(s).

I have not visited the WICB site in a while specifically, because it was hard to navigate, did not update regularly, and was generally, "the most useless website in the world" an award that my former colleague and I gave it after trying to find out the dates of a tour that was ONE MONTH away... not that I am bitter or anything, now looking at the fan page, I am disappointed, but not surprised.

Now I am not a fan of the fan pages in particular, but I recognise their value and usefulness, and this relates back to our... er... disagreement the other day in which you were ... er... a little more accurate than I was. Anyways, the whole lacklustre and lackadaisical approaoch to West Indies cricket is in large part the cause of our position in it.

But to be fair to the neanderthals residing in Antigua, I must point out that the following successful clubs/teams do not have official FB fan pages:

Manchester United FC "The most Popular Club in the World" (my side since 1985 too)

Juventus FC

Inter Milan FC

With respect to International cricket teams, Cricket Australia has an FB page with is nothing to write home about. They have a twitter feed which is like a news feed as well, which is better than nothing.

The ECB's page is not as nicely laid out as the football teams' pages, but to my is fairly informative in (tries to be) interactive.

The thing is, WICB have never made being a fan easy. Have you ever tried to buy a West Indies T-shirt? Good luck finding one outside of when the team is in your territory. As I said before finding out information on the team is awful.

I love the team (maybe not it's members that much) and I wish them all the best in the tourney... hopefully people know it's going on...

Note above:
“maybe their website is so fab that the FB Page was unnecessary”

I am not an advocate for having a Fan page just for having a Fan page sake. Juventus for example has their membership programme which afford you perks which one would expect from a FB Fan page but I am sure theirs are better and encourage great interaction, rich content etc. So no need for them to go on FB if they don’t want to. I am guessing the same of Man-U, which if it is the most popular club in the world, obviously has a well oiled marketing machine that is working in other areas tha FB. It is not hard and fast that one MUST have a Fan page. I was just drawing on the examples of the competition that the WI team’s fan page and website have to contend with online. But Juve’s website is fabulous. is pretty static and has nothing going for it, and the Fan Page is pretty much an extension of the dearth.

But I do understand what you mean when you say being a fan of the WI is a challenge. The marketing and promotions wheels somehow are not quite in motion. It’s also pretty sad that as far as image and merchandising go, much of that is done via their major sponsor, “the other network”.

I agree 100% with the not having a fan page for having a fan page sake, Man U does have a membership with some perks (I have often been tempted to shell out the 25 GBP to join). I was not suggesting that these teams needed one, but just to show that there are teams who have not entered the facebook realm.

I think that the WICB does have a marketing department, but I have no idea whether it's for marketing the TEAM or the series.

Of course, the thing is that given the performances recently they may be a bit reticent in promoting the team and the brand. However, the at the end of the day, the T20 world cup is here at the end of the month, and we should be hearing about supporting the team.. We should be able to get the WI World Cup Replica T-shirt (in 2007 that was the hardest thing to get.) Support West Indies should be a mantra we here from the time we get up to the time we go to sleep.

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