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.
Of course the 100 will succeed the ECB indicators of success are very narrow, the wider one of sustainability is not even mentioned.
You’re bang on here I think. The Hundred probably will succeed in some ways for several reasons.
1. It’s on free to air.
2. While the the promotion of the Hundred has been laughably bad so far (the ‘Women and Children’ comment, the advert they photoshopped from a random concert, the team names, the crisp sponsorship and the horrible press releases), the ECB will put so much money into advertising the Hundred, it will get noticed.
3. Not everyone is going to boycott it. Fans who are against it may have changed their minds in years time, some will be against it but willing to give it a go, some will go because it’s cricket and some will just go out of curiosity.
4. Plenty of big names have signed up for it. I’m guessing by her tweet, Megan Schutt has to and therefore the rest of the top Australian women.
5. The ECB got incredibly lucky with the World Cup wins and the Headingley test this year getting people interested in cricket again at the right time.
6. Specifically in terms of the women’s game, it may be the best way to support in the long term outside of going to internationals. If George Dobell is right (and he normally is) the ECB have put an awful lot of money into the Hundred if it goes wrong, it could have negative consequences for the cricket in England and Wales particuarly the women.
Why points one and two couldn’t have been done for the Vitality Blast and the KSL is another question but not one I want to get into here.
I also agree about the long term. The more cynical amongst the cricket watching community (of which I count myself a member) suspect one of the reasons the Hundred was created because of money. One of the thing supposedly the ECB are looking to do is sell the idea of the Hundred as another format of the game. This isn’t going to work.
1. When T20 was created, it was an alternative to 50 over cricket which had gone a bit stale. No one took it seriously at first (Adam Hollioake has said he thought it was a bit of a joke and most players felt the same) but it became this behemoth because the game took hold in India and IPL. The Hundred isn’t significantly different to T20 for that to happen.
2. The other two boards with any money, the ACB and the BCCI aren’t going to the Hundred. They make money from the Big Bash and IPL respectively because they sell the franchises.
3. As the Outside of Cricket blog points out, if someone else wanted to create their own version of the Hundred, what’s to stop them doing a 99 ball competion or a T10?
4. To survive long term, these franchises have to create a fanbase. Those idiotic press releases presumably written and okayed by people who don’t watch professional sport completely misunderstand that loyality to a team is created organically. The 18 counties have existed for over 100 years (I’m the third generation of Somerset supporter in my family), Likewise the KSL franchises were able to build a fanbase rather than a use a glitzy marketing campaign. The IPL was able to play on Indian fantasicism for cricket and BBL essentially replace the state teams with city based teams because the majority of people in Australia live in the 6 cities where the BBL teams are based. Neither is true in the case of England. The ECB haven’t answered why anyone from Durham would support a team based in Leeds. Or why anyone in Bristol, Taunton or Cheltenham would support a team in Wales?!
Whatever happens the ECB will declare it a ‘success’ (I think Tom Harrison already has) using the old mantra ‘You can prove anything with statistics’. It may well encourage more youngsters to take up the game which will be a good thing. Will it help the England teams in the long run? I don’t know and more worryingly I don’t think the ECB do either.
I’m sure the women’s competition will be very good. It’s a big part of what we have next year, and the increased player base, FTA coverage and slightly improved wages will be welcome. I’ll be paying close attention and attending some matches.
The issues with The Hundred are, chiefly:
* Expanding or putting more money into the already-existing KSL would have been even better. It was a successful, well-liked competition in a recognised format that is actually played internationally. I can’t see the Hundred becoming an International format, as CA and BCCI are not interested.
* The plus points above are an incremental evolution on the existing sate of affairs, and are not enough to put England back in business against Australia in the near future. To do that the developments would have needed to be a huge leap forward, not merely matching CA’s investments. but improving upon them. It’s disappointing that the ECB didn’t do that.
* The overall success of the whole Hundred project will be determined by how the men’s competition goes, and I’m not sure that will be well. Too many people have expressed disinterest or antipathy for another comp in an already congested men’s calendar.
* Awful PR, team names and kits.