Investing in the Legends: A Novel Strategy in the Cricketing Business

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Change is inevitable. The last two decades have seen a lot of changes in the game of cricket, right from modifications to the ages old format, introduction of better technology to the end of legendary eras of great cricketers who served the game like true gentlemen and sportsmen. Over the years, the game has been modernized to lure in more viewers and supporters by providing them with better viewing experiences. Anyone who has grown up watching cricket since the early 90s till date would agree that the new makeover has catapulted the game to higher levels. However, at some point, many of us have regretted not being able to watch a majority of the retired cricketing legends sweat it out on the field while playing in the shortest format of the game, twenty-twenty cricket. While some of them did play a fair bit of T20 cricket, both in international and domestic tournaments, their performances were often overshadowed by those of the younger players. Millions of fans globally wished to see these legends back on the field. The wish did not go unnoticed by the business gurus of the cricketing business. The result was the formation of two T20 cricket leagues which would feature only modern-day retired legends of the game. The number currently stands at two – All-Stars League and Masters Champions League (MCL). Such leagues could turn out to be a winning formula as bringing these legends on one common stage means directly attracting their individual fan base across the world to the stage too. It is similar to having all the top-selling brands under one roof. With brands come their loyal followers. Greater the number of followers, more profitable the league can be at various levels. If not right at the beginning, the league, an extremely clever marketing strategy, would pay higher dividends with time. To begin with, the legendary duo of Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar brought together 30 of their ex-colleagues to compete in three T20 matches held on drop-in pitches in baseball stadiums across the USA. Shane’s Warriors and Sachin’s Blasters left millions of cricket fans brimming with nostalgia and with a weird confusion of deciding which team to cheer for. The “All-Stars League” which aimed at promoting cricket in the United States, proved that these legends of the game were still capable of competing on the field and attracting a viewership that transcended boundaries. Similarly, a league named Masters Champions League (MCL) was announced on June 3, 2015, in Dubai. The league which would feature six teams of 15 players each, would bring together 90 modern day legends of the game to compete in T20 matches played across three venues in UAE – Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai. The “League of the Xtra Ordinary”, as it is claimed to be, was formed by a Pakistan-British businessman named Zafar Shah, who is now based in Dubai. Owner of the Grand Midwest Chain of Hotels in Dubai, Mr. Shah founded Grand Midwest Sports, a company which intends to promote the game of cricket and forward his personal passion for the game. The league has received a full approval from the Emirates Cricket Board for the next 10 years and is endorsed by Federation of International Cricketers’ Association (FICA). The teams, named after six out of the twelve zodiac signs, would consist of 12 marquee players with one player termed as an icon player for each team. With the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakkara, Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, Mahela Jayawardene, and many more, the league is expected to pack a strong and lasting punch. The teams would play each other once in a round robin format with four top teams moving to the semi-finals. One of the objectives, as reported, would be to allow retired legends extend financial help to their ex-colleagues facing financial distress in retirement. The last few years has noticed the emergence of various domestic cricket leagues across various countries, primarily after the huge success of IPL. Leagues such as All-Stars and MCL seem to have tapped onto a niche market in the cricketing business. It is a well-known fact that a cricketer’s professional life ends quite early, around the mid or late 30s. By giving retired international cricketers a chance to play the game again, such leagues seem like a well-crafted business strategy by keeping individual players, in this case brands, still alive in the market. Such leagues might surely succeed in promoting the game of cricket, and in providing a fabulous visual treat to fans who have missed seeing their cricketing idols in action. However, the business strategies behind them cannot be ignored because of the sheer amount of investment involved in it. It is no charity after all.

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