Written by Ellie Bacon
At 5.37 pm on Sunday, I leapt up from the sofa, fists clenched and cheered.
That was the moment that England fast bowler, Anya Shrubsole, knocked over Rajeshwari Gayakwad’s off stump to seal victory in the Women’s Cricket World Cup.
The win over a strong Indian team is a huge sporting achievement for the team, but to complete that in front of a sold out Lord’s crowd is perhaps more of an achievement still.
It’s worth putting this into context. The England women’s cricket team only turned professional a few years ago, and the 2013 tournament barely registered in public awareness, so to fill the country’s ultimate cricketing venue is something to celebrate regardless of the side you were cheering for. That’s a triumph of communication and marketing.
While our specialist sectors might seem far removed from this, there are still some lessons we can learn and apply in our own areas.
Although the final was held at Lord’s, all of the earlier games were played at smaller grounds, which don’t typically host international cricket. The smaller capacities meant the grounds never felt empty, and allowed the tournament to gather interest and momentum before the big sell for Lord’s. The same approach is just as important for brands: while a big bang launch has its advantages, there’s a lot to be said for steadily building engagement over time.
Although there is still no live English cricket on free-to-air TV (there’s another post in that), just about every other channel available has been effectively exploited. From Instagram to Facebook and video billboards, the ECB and ICC have left no stone unturned – and the BBC has chipped in, with comprehensive radio and podcast coverage, as well as video clips of key moments available via its social media channels just moments after the action.
But it’s not just about digital engagement. The women’s team has devoted hours and hours over recent years getting out into schools to spread the word about the sport. They appreciate the importance of the personal connection in a world where lots of sports are vying for allegiance.
In much the same way, companies must understand where their audiences go to access information, and ensure they tell a consistent story across them.
Showing the human side
The England team is full of characters – and from fiery fast bowler Katherine Brunt, to the smooth calmness of captain Heather Knight, to the openness and honesty of keeper Sarah Taylor, returning to the game after a period of serious anxiety, they’re not afraid to show it. And let’s not forget the moment Indian captain, Mithali Raj, won legions of fans right at the start of the contest following her withering put down of a patronising journalist.
The women’s teams have not yet had the humanity ‘media-trained’ out of them as their male counterparts sometimes appear to. They also appreciate that they have to earn their following. I would love to know the number of autographs the players have signed during the tournament – but every single one has the potential to ignite the imagination of a future star.
While few of our spokespeople are likely to be troubled for their autographs any time soon, it’s a salient reminder of the value of the human touch.
The result? An 80% increase in the TV audience since the last tournament. Over half a million listeners tuned in to the radio commentary of England’s semi-final. The live page for the Women’s World Cup final was the most popular of the whole of BBC online on Sunday. And maybe, just maybe, the stars of tomorrow engaged. #goboldly