In 1985, facing what they believed to be existential competition from Pepsi, Coca-Cola introduced New Coke. Driven on by gung-ho marketing consultants, who based their findings on small secretive focus groups, New Coke was sweeter and, in the words of the management gurus, “bolder” and “more harmonious”.
It was a spectacular failure – the public hated it, and less than 3 months later “Classic” Coke was reintroduced, with Coca-Cola President and CEO Donald Keough admitting:
“The simple fact is that all the time and money and skill poured into consumer research on the new Coca-Cola could not measure or reveal the deep and abiding emotional attachment to original Coca-Cola felt by so many people.”
More than thirty years later, with New Coke having passed into legend, the ECB launched The Hundred – a new, sweeter competition, based on small secretive focus groups – with a blitzkrieg of marketing babble:
“Follow Southern Brave, and go boldly where others shy away. Endlessly curious, with an insatiable appetite for adventure, what’s over the horizon?”
The parallels were like railway tracks disappearing into that very horizon.
Tweets were tweeted:
And replies were replied:
And actually, Megan Schutt is right – it will be great.
Money is being poured into it, and the spectacle will be unprecedented. Domestic players will be paid more than ever before, as they match up against an unrivalled lineup of the world’s biggest stars, including all the top Australians who have mostly passed on the KSL, with Ellyse Perry having only played two KSLs; Alyssa Healy one; and Meg Lanning none.
The final will be broadcast on the BBC – free to air at prime time, and is certain to be the biggest live TV audience ever for a women’s cricket match in this country.
This time next year, Clare Connor will rightly be able to stand up and say to the world that the doubters were wrong – The Hundred has been a roaring success.
But it is what comes slightly further down the line which we should all perhaps be a bit more concerned with – and that’s where the worries really lie – Clare Connor and Tom Harrison will have moved on by then, but cricket will still have to live with their legacy.
Put simply, England is not a big enough market to sustain a form of the game that no one else plays. Even if The Hundred restores cricket’s place as England’s “second sport”, it will still be dwarfed by the commercial might of the IPL, which by then will include a full-blown Women’s competition. And the BCCI are never going to embrace The Hundred format – they are the paymasters of world cricket now and they just won’t countenance it, and everyone else, from Australia to the West Indies and everywhere in between, knows which side of the bread their butter is on.
So at some point – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, in the greater scheme of things – a future ECB board is going to have to accept that reality.
They’ll launch a “New” New Competition, based on the Twenty20 format which everyone else plays; and The Hundred will be quietly forgotten, having succeeded… but ultimately failed.