Featuring Stuart Robertson

In the episode we discuss:

  • How T20 cricket came to be born – the marketing version
    • The rationale for the new competition
    • The research behind the product development
    • Stakeholder engagement
    • Launching the product
    • How it landed better than anyone expected
    • Globalisation of the game
  • The Hundred – cricket’s newest format from the ECB
    • Is the strategy correct
    • Is it close enough to cricket to be successful
  • Starting a career with a graduate training programme at the Milk Marketing Board
  • A career in sport marketing
  • Moving to agency world

The episode also has a T.O.P.T.I.P from Jane Roper from Behind The Ad. If you don’t know what UTM tracking is or why you should be using it, this one is for you.

Stuart Robertson

Stuart Robertson is the Commercial and Strategy Director at The Canopy, a fast growing creative agency in Winchester.

An experienced Commercial Director with a successful career in rights-holder sports administration, he has held senior commercial positions at both governing body and club level.

Recognised as the ‘creator’ of Twenty20 Cricket whilst in his role as the ECB’s Marketing Manager, Stuart changed the whole cricketing world and, perhaps, the entire sporting landscape around the globe.

Find Stuart on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stuart-robertson-7407291a/

And The Canopy Studio are here: https://thecanopy.studio/

Or on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-canopy-studio/

Stuart’s Book Recommendations

TOPTIP with Jane Roper

Owner of Behind the Ad, a newly formed marketing consultancy in Northern Ireland that focuses on educating small business owners on what marketing is in order to make informed marketing decisions for their business. 

Jane has worked across several industries from financial services to eCommerce, to not for profits and would consider herself a ‘marketing geek’ who feels most comfortable ‘behind the ad’, analysing data to make informed decisions.

When asked what she loves most about marketing, her reply is, ‘marketing at the core is about opening business up to new possibilities and customers to new experiences and we as marketers get to be part of that journey…”



Andi Jarvis

If you have any questions or want to talk about anything that was discussed in the show, the best place to get me is on Twitter or LinkedIn.

If you don’t get the podcast emailed to you (and a monthly newsletter) you can sign up for it on the Eximo Marketing website.

Make sure you subscribe to get the podcast every fortnight and if you enjoyed the show, please give it a 5* rating.

Interview Transcription

This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.

We couldn’t get to Episode 20 without talking about cricket, and so here we are on Episode 20, talking about 20 20, I’m joined by Stewart Robertson, the man who changed cricket. Stuart, how are you?

I’m very well, thanks very, very much. Yeah, all good. Well, look, before we get into it, there’s probably a number of the audience who Hayman Island don’t really care about cricket. So before you go switching off, I want to explain. This is going to be a marketing podcast. The Strategy Sessions is a marketing podcast. What you may not know about cricket is that the game changed fundamentally because of the man who’s joining me today.

And it was all driven from pure marketing. That’s what we’re going to talk about, the process that helped to launch 20/20. Do you want to give us just a flavour of for people who maybe don’t know a huge amount about cricket, just give a little bit of a background to the different formats involved in cricket and kind of what they what role they play?

Yeah, effectively, there are there are three formats of the game now. Previously that there were just a couple. So the long format of the game, the real kind of Marmite version of cricket is the two innings ecomm the game. The shortest version of that is four days or international level five day. So that’s what a lot of people get turned off by. So that’s Test cricket or championship cricket. There’s a one day version of the game, which is is based on over 50 over the side.

So that but that the shortest time slot for that would be about seven hours. And what we’re going to be talking about is how we we shorten that much, much more to fit with consumer demand at the time. So as a format called Twenty Twenty, which lasts around three hours. So they’re fundamentally the three forms.

So the reason I’ve always been a cricket fan, I started playing as a kid and I’d really made it in the world when I had in my early 20s, I got a job at Durham County Cricket Club in 2003.

It’s the first year 2020 is being launched. I remember cricket being a very different game to what you know now. Yes, it was a professional sport, but most of our professional players only had part time contracts. They were only professional cricketers with their in between April and September and the rest of the year, they were effectively unemployed or could go off and play cricket in different parts of the world. What was the game like when you were working as a marketing manager at the ECB or head of marketing and was at the ECB?

What was the game like? Give us a feel of what it looked like in the late 90s.

Yeah, it’s interesting to to remember it was still a national summer sport, by the way. And as much as it was, there was there’s the negatives around it. But yeah, I joined the TCC Beta Test and County Cricket Board, as it was called, in nineteen ninety three after a short stint in food marketing at the central business domestically in Italian, but but ended up in food marketing briefly. And then then it’s basically at Lords this kind of last year.

There’s this massive establishment organisation and it literally was Blaze’s in corridors. It was very much that the ECB was separate to the MDC. They organised the runs Lords, but nevertheless national governing body of the game. And it was it was it was a great place to be. It is a fabulous place to be, actually. And but there were lots of people there who were ex cricketers. The game was sort of run. And by a lot of cricketers or cricketers, it felt at the time there was a marketeer coming into that space.

I think we’re probably going to talk hopefully a bit more about this, but this is where I guess it just wasn’t that sort of consumer oriented approach. It was very well organised by well structured in terms of popularity in England, played and especially when they played Ashes tests. It was incredibly popular that cricket was alive and kicking at the international level. Where we had an issue was really about popularising the domestic game, as we call it. So the club game, the eighteen professional counties, we played that game.

So and also really importantly, there was my first job in cricket at the ECB, was working at a recreational level before I became after manager qualified for the organisation. I was looking after trying to market and commercialise a little bit more grassroots cricket and help all those volunteers and people at the grassroots of the game, because to create that virtuous circle of a healthy foundation, support the professional top of the game. So if you’ve seen cricket, a county cricket, the domestic game where I worked, if you see the championship game where players are wearing all white, kind of very traditional cricket, if you look beyond the action on the field, what you would have seen in the stands was a lot of very nicely coloured seats with very few people in them.

And this was kind of a problem within the game, the championship, cricket, test cricket. Those stats, about 11 o’clock in this country runs till about six o’clock, which is perfectly when most of us are at work. And it is beloved by retirees and elderly people. And even people who love cricket don’t really go along to watch too much of that because they can’t it doesn’t fit in with life. And this was the problem in the game.

As you said, it was run by cricket. So the cricket was really strong, but that consumer focussed maybe just wasn’t there. And so what was the driving factor to make a change? Well, actually, just before coming to answer that question, because there was a very specific driving factor, but just worth maybe understanding the economics of cricket really as to why that was important. The vast majority of cricket as a sports professional revenues came from the international side and from broadcasting revenues and some top level sponsorship revenues coming into the game at that level.

So the be all and end all, if you like, from a commercial driver was with the value of that international team to create the best international team. We needed a strong county game to produce those cricketers who would go up to play for the England team when they were when they were sort of playing those international games. So in a sense, a lot of county cricket was done to create international players to get to a point for certainly from a commercial commercial perspective.

So although those spectators, there were a few of them going to county matches, the income from the counties was where they took a big share of that international revenues from the whole game. So there was not a massive driver necessarily to be sort of selling tickets, selling memberships at the local level as much because there was a bit of a handout coming from the the international revenues for the game. So it’s quite important to understand that the absolute driver for the change that that brought 2020 into the world was a 17 percent decline in domestic attendances over a five year period in the run in to 2000.

Part of my role at that time as marketing manager at the ECB was to keep an eye on sort of general attendances. We weren’t selling tickets directly and centrally at the ECB or the ECB, the England and Wales Cricket Board, as it had become by then. It was the guys like you that was that the counties who were selling those tickets for international matches and for for domestic games. So I was keeping an eye on on that and using sort of metrics, attendance metrics, membership figures and the like.

And with international cricket was OK.

It was doing fine, depending on who the opposition was, how well England were playing at the time. Stadia were pretty full for most of those games. But at the domestic level, across the board, we saw a consistent year on year decline in attendances. And there aren’t many businesses, organisations that can sustain that level of perpetual decline. And that was the point. We said, look, we need to do something about this.

And so 17 percent decline over five years is it’s horrifying. If you look at your own business and you think 17 percent decline and you’d be running for the hills and trying to do something, there is still a bit of an amateur hangover in cricket at the time when you all that lot cricketers in in senior positions. Was there a push to say, look, OK, we’ll just introduce a new cricket competition or we know what the answer to this problem is?

Did you have to sort of fight to go out and do any research or was it a case of the problem was compelling enough that it was an open door?

You were pushing it depending who you’re talking to and to be honest. So, so interestingly, and someone who doesn’t get a lot of credit for 20/20, who should get more is a guy called John Karr. He was the director of cricket at the ICC, at the ECB at the time.

And and he he had seen short form cricket.

I mean, we’d all seen shorefront cricket. You know, when you talk about the recreational game at club level all around the country on Tuesday nights, on Thursday nights, on midweek evenings, 20 over cricket, 18 over cricket have been played for decades. And they’ve been a little go in New Zealand a few years before we got got into this. And John had seen that one. And actually before I got properly involved three years before that, we’d had to ask the question, you know, is, is is this something worth looking at?

But there really wasn’t any insight supporting it. So it really depends on who you are talking to. Some people and even after we launched, it said this is ridiculous, this is going to destroy the game. But there were very much enough enlightened people, people from a commercial background. Terry Blake, who was a commercial director with the the ECB in those days, my boss was into this. And and also the chairman of the ECB at the time was Lord McLaren, who had been chairman of Tesco and Vodafone.

So someone was pretty, pretty up to speed with consumer demand and consumer propositions. So, yeah, there were enough people. I was knocking on enough of an open door with enough people to get the the funding to do the consumer research, which gave us ultimately the argument and the information and the insight to get this voted through. But that’s that’s a whole story in its own right.

So what was the process then? Because you’ve got you’re dealing with a national institution. Everyone who is a cricket fan has an opinion on the game. And that’s the same with all sports, right? You’re dealing with the crown jewels to them. So you set out you’ve got a huge decline as a backdrop. So that’s the situation you’ve got. The go ahead to do some research, to start looking at what’s the answer? What did you do? Did you have an answer in mind when you set out to try and prove that?

Or did you go out and and go, OK, let’s just look at the research and see what that tells us. What was your approach to that?

Yeah, a little bit of both, actually, so that we’d seen this, that there was enough intelligence, enough insight, enough experience that the governing body to have an idea of what the problem was going to be. And in terms of what you’d said earlier on in the championship, cricket lasting four days, played during the day when people were at work and at school. So so we clearly had an idea. But the actual process was, first of all, we had to secure the funding to do a proper piece of consumer research.

And Channel four were the terrestrial broadcaster at the time and they were ripping up the rulebook as far as broadcasting cricket was concerned. So it was just at the right time. They were marketing the game with and alongside as they were putting grassroots programmes and educational programmes and cultural programmes. And Paul Oakenfold on Clapham Common Plains. Seventy thousand people that evening after they had shown live Test cricket. So actually, as conservative as the game was, in most cases it was starting to turn.

So they put a quarter million quid up to help us do some some proper consumer research and probably the first piece of consumer research, significant consumer research we’ve done as the governing body. So I appointed a an ad agency to help us with that. And we ended up doing a three phase research programme. So we did a desk audit first. We wanted to make sure that we had everything in place, that we knew exactly what the what the data as best as we could was telling us just to reinforce that 17 percent decline and make sure it is accurate.

We then ended up with a qualitative device. So we did 30 research groups, quality groups across the country. What we also wanted to do was talk to people who we felt were underrepresented in cricket audiences. So just looking around the grounds, you could see that there was a middle aged, older, middle aged, middle class white male tendency in very general terms. So we wanted to talk to people who we didn’t see very often the ground. So they were the children and women and families in city communities, ethnic minorities, people that we felt should be and could be in cricket, but actually weren’t.

So we did a lot of that to build up that insights. And then we tested that insight with a quantitative based at the end of it. And the younger market is watching. This podcast will will love the socks off. And then that we did a four and a half thousand, what was called an omnibus survey in those days. I’m going to sound like such an awful lot now. But but we had four and a half thousand questionnaires and taken into household responsive households across the country where the householder randomly sampled would be asking questions about cricket that that evening.

And again, welcome into more detail on that in a second. But it was so that was a three phase of research. And that that sort of gave us the insight and the and that the quantitative the statistical backing that we needed on the kids today don’t know the ball into the you know, the talk about research into like, oh, well, we could send this out to our email database of ten thousand.

We might get a 20 percent open and then we get an eight percent. So yeah, that’s fine. We’ll end up with any like you don’t know you. But I remember the days of people with clipboards. Oh jeez. It’s good old fashioned research.

So out of that you get an enormous amount of data and the old lies, damned lies and statistics phrases is running around my head at the minute. How did you go from that phase of. Right, we’ve got all this information. Yeah. We’ve got to then turn it into a product. And you mentioned the New Zealand. Was it Max Cricket or something? It was called. And I want to come back to that a little bit down the line as well, because, Max, Cricket was a little bit different.

And it’s all about I don’t want to talk about the hundred through the lens of much cricket as well as we as we get a bit further into the story. But what did you do? You’ve got numbers coming out of your ears. You’ve got people in focus groups saying, you know, I read the cricket scores every day in the newspapers. But when did you last go to a game of ten years ago? Why is that? I’m busy.

You’ve got all of this rich research. What did you do?

It so we had to simplify. It was was the short answer that we had to in any kind of change management, you can do all the research you like. You can create the strongest argument identified that the benefits of change and implementing that change. If you can’t persuade the decision makers to get whatever they change through that, you’re wasting your time. So we had to simplify this down to really digestible solution to a really understandable problem. So we had a.

Pretty identifiable problem, 70 percent decline in domestic attendance is not getting any better. The insight has told us very clearly that the key issue with cricket at the time was inaccessibility. And that was the word that kept coming through. And we define that in various ways. It was it was structurally inaccessible, as in it was played at a time. The people the product was not available when people were available to watch it. In the main, it was socially inaccessible to a lot of people.

Women thought it was a game for men, that they wouldn’t be welcome on the ground, they wouldn’t have facilities. Children thought that was just it was for grown ups. Inner city communities felt that it was a posh sport you even had in the inside. Don’t need a blazer and a tie to go and watch a game. And and so there were whole loads of barriers to entry and accessibility was was was key to to all of that so that we were able to kind of deliver that very powerfully and quite clearly into various box pops and little video shops and all sorts.

But quantifying that again, it came down to pretty simple set of questions and answers. So we were asking people why they didn’t go to cricket, what were the key reasons they didn’t go? And we were able to show that and quantify what I’d said earlier about that. Sort of the demographic for cricket consumer at the time was that middle aged, middle class white male. And we then asked the sort of bit of a killer question, well, look, we understand is the accessibility issue.

If we delivered if we offered you a cricket product which was played when you could watch it and it wasn’t boring in inverted commas, it had a closure. It lasted three hours and it was played after school and after work. How likely would you be to come to it, to those games? So we showed a graph where all of the people who were massively under indexed in attending cricket, women, children, families in cities, communities, all the rest of it there were massively under indexed and current attendance.

When asked that question, how likely would you be to attend a game that was that was met your needs?

They must have been over indexed and the two slides and these were very basic slides at a time. I remember sort of constructing them and they literally flipped. So that demographic, you said not interested here. Absolutely interested when when asked that question. So we basically constructed the presentation, the argument statistically backed insight for that.

And but then that was only the start of it. I mean, that took a lot of lobbying, you know, ultimately in the end. And so so what we were very careful to do is but we knew that this was going to be tricky and difficult and unpalatable to a lot of people. So we tried to take the stakeholders with us on that journey. I presented, for example, at the annual general meeting of the Professional Cricketers Association meeting so that all of the representatives of all the players get together once a year.

And I presented at that meeting to tell them what we were thinking of doing. We then presented the findings the following year after the research had been completed and started to get the players thinking about, OK, well, where the guys are going to be having to deliver and play this this product. We did the same with you guys, with the marketeers. And during that process, probably just before you started Durham, we would we were showing the research.

We’re taking the marketing teams along with the same with the chief executives of the counties, because the decision making body that was going to get this through or not was an organisation called that a first class forum. So this was effectively it was the chairman and the chief executive of each of the 18 first class counties, the professional counties, plus the chairman and chief exec of the Mxy, the people who are lords cricket ground. So those nineteen votes were what it was going to come down to at the end of the day.

And and I’m I’m sorry.

Am I right in thinking as well that generally speaking, the people around that table are going to look very much like the people who are already turning about cricket anyway? Middle aged white men who massively over index in terms of wealth compared to the rest of the nation is broadly what you’ve got in that room in the first class form.

That’s exactly. But actually older. I wouldn’t say middle aged. They were they were often older, middle aged, if not old. And so so that they were they don’t they stripe’s that these were experienced people often had run businesses themselves. But the problem with that was that they were in that room. Not only did they look like the people who were coming to cricket, they were voted in by those people as well. So so the way that the county clubs operated mainly in the time was they were members, clubs.

So you might have a membership at a first class county like Essex, say four with two or three thousand members at the time be. Into season ticket holders who were all in that category pretty much, or the vast majority were, so they didn’t like change. They like their their county championship. Thank you very much. They were banging on the door saying we need more kids running around this ground screaming and shouting and cheering. We need more. So so there was a bit of a Monday almost when it came to this vote that the chairman there were thinking also about, well, who am I representing with this vote?

And and there was a real conflict. The more enlightened we’re looking at it thinking I need to vote this in for the future of the game, not just for me getting voted back in as chairman when my term is up. So there was a bit of nuance. And that’s why I kind of reference you can do all the consumer research we like. We can get the product nailed down as much as you like. But if you can’t persuade the decision makers and understand who those decision makers are, all that all that could be wasted.

So when was the meeting with the first class forum? Is this about sort of 2000, 2001?

Yeah, exactly. So it’s 2001 and we’ve done the commission, the research and in fact know we did the research in 2001 and this was a meeting in April, April 2002.

I think it was last night. Yeah, massively.

And not just for me, but but we knew that this would put all the work into this, would develop the products. And we we had this concept, we had the idea set up. And the night before this meeting, this was one of those classic boardroom meetings. Imagine sort of massive long table at Lords. Everyone gathered around the room and it took with all the lobbying we’d done, it still took the chairman of the ECB to be ringing round some of the chairmen that we thought would be wavering on this to try and say to them the night before lobbying, look, we need to get behind this.

You need to do this. So it got to the morning. It got to the presentation of various you know, this is part of the board meeting of the of the ECB effectively. So there was a slot for this short form game. And my boss introduced it. I presented the research. We went through the whole arguments. And and then every county chairman was given an opportunity to say a few words. And it started everyone was sat alphabetically around the table to starts at Derbyshire, then Durham, and it went all the way round.

And and gentlemen, some were very, very Andi and very vociferously against it. Some was a bit ambivalent. Some were very for it. And it was impossible to know how the vote was going to go. And it needed a majority votes in that room that day. In order for this to get through and give us the green light starts to progress.

Just jump back one stage before this. So in cricket, at the time, you’ve got the championship cricket, four days where it might. But the one day game had been introduced via Australia, I think with Kerry Packer and TV and cricket under floodlights and stuff like that, which was in theory to answer this problem of making cricket more phone, more accessible, shorter, easier to watch, and had been a qualified success, really, you know, the the World Cup one day event and then, you know, the white SADEC being ditched in the coloured clothing would come in.

And there was razzamatazz, for want of a better word in one day cricket. How much pressure was there on you to just say, right, just fixed the one day competition because that should answer these problems, you know? So you’ve got the research. How much pressure is that to say, well, actually, we can just tweak what we’ve got or we have to introduce something new?

Yeah, really good question, because I think that’s a function of time. So so there was pressure to do that. We were working and trying to make that that sort of that one day game more again, more more accessible, I guess, you know, so it’s about that interestingly had ranged for a number of overs and therefore time that that game was played. There was a forty five hour version of it. It was a forty hour version of fifty other version at one point sixty one day cricket.

But the fundamental problem with it was that even the shortest format at, say, 40 or 45 overs aside, that’s still six hours to seven hours worth of time that we’re expecting these young new consumers who wanted to bring into the game to give them.

And when can you play? They only could be at weekends and scheduling didn’t allow that to happen. So even with floodlights, you’re still looking at a game that is not all grounds have floodlights. So it was it was a difficult thing to do. So that was not going to be the solution? It might have been. It certainly was when that was introduced. But society had changed. People were moving on, people becoming more cash rich, more time poor.

And what was accessible twenty years beforehand was no longer seen as very accessible. And we needed something that really, really was delivered when people could come and watch it.

So the vote went your way. I’m assuming it went your way because twenty twenty cricket started. And what was the. What was the fallout from that decision, because cricket is, as you say, a conservative game, you know, change in football. I always say football games and rugby games. If you look back at the old pictures in 1830 or whatever, were just masses of crowds of people, you know, trying to get the ball from one end of a village to another.

And that could go on for hours and days. And then they started institute structure and rules and regulations like cricket only drop only a five day limit to tests in the 50s. Was it in the, you know, be timeless tests at some point. And it’s a game that evolves slowly. So all of a sudden you come in with what amounts to to revolution or heresy in many quarters, you know, what was the fallout from that decision?

So interestingly, I think one of the things I was proudest with of that whole programme and bringing it to life was, as we mentioned earlier on, working with those stakeholders through the process because the vote actually was 11 seven in favour with the MDC abstaining.

So one or two votes the other way and 20, 20 may still may or may not be around. Who knows?

That was very, very close the morning we made that presentation to those those county chairmen when there was a meeting of the marketing directors, commercial directors, marketing managers of all the counties. And I gave the very same presentation that I gave that afternoon to their chairman, to those marketing managers. And I said to them at the end of that presentation, right, if you were your boss this afternoon voting on this, how would you vote? And the marketing teams, the commercial teams in that room unanimously voted in favour of 20-20 because they were at the sharp end.

They could see they were in touch with their consumers. They wanted to bring more people in. So once the chairman, even though seven county chairmen said, no, thanks very much, they kind of threw it to the people to deliver it, which were their marketing teams, and said, better get on with this then. So because we’ve done all the work in the run up to this and we then had a year to to then implement and refine the product and put it out there.

We had the right people with this week. We very quickly we’d been talking to the media. We had been sold to broadcasters. We we then carried on that lobbying. We actually took a media trip out to Spain, to Valderrama for weekends on all things cricket. But 20/20 was a big part of that.

Sounds terrible. Was it was. Yeah, it was a fantastic trip, but part of it was presenting just what I’ve described and and, you know, just to get the media onside. So by the time we came a year later to delivering this and launching it, we had so many people on side. The players were onside with us more or some was a little bit sceptical, I have to say, but more or less were on side.

We had the county team, the people who were going to deliver these games were fully on board with with all of this and people getting very excited by delivering it. And Sky, who were the broadcasters then? BBC through their radio stations, they were all ready to give us the best shot. There were still a lot of naysayers. And in fact, it came round the morning of the first ever game. And I was on the Radio four Today programme in the morning in the studio.

And it and I was giving all of this and saying how this is changing cricket. This is going to be amazing. And Sarah Montague’s said, well, we’ve got someone on the line who who’s maybe not quite as convinced as you.

And and they brought Brian close on, who is a very traditional Yorkshire player administrator, and pretty much said, this is a disgrace. It is going to ruin the game. This is not going to survive. What are they doing? It’s ridiculous. So there are a lot of people still to be to be convinced. But we had enough people with us.

Am I right in thinking, Brian Klauss, you can find a YouTube clip of him wearing what appears to be a school shirt batting for England, no helmet and gloves, which look like walking gloves these days facing some fearsome footballing and just wearing every ball that comes his way rather than trying just to prove how tough it was and you couldn’t fight with him.

So that’s the man. That’s the guy. I mean, an amazing player, an amazing servant to the game. But but he was of an era. You’re absolutely right. Didn’t believe in those pads. And he would just and he wouldn’t flinch when he was hit by a ball at 85, 90 miles an hour by a Western. But, yeah, there were a lot of people like that who were just still not into this.

So 2003, the competition launched was my first year at Durham. You sort of I was fed at missed a lot of this research, but I was fed it all as I started and marketing executive from memory, our biggest crowd, a one day game that year. So so we had championship cricket taking place, which attracted no more than a thousand people on any given day. Yeah, we had one day cricket, I think from memory. We had about a three thousand crowd in that day, which was the biggest crowd we’ve seen in a long time and was a good day.

We had Yorkshire on a sunny day, closest game. Lots of people turned up. We started selling tickets for the twenty twenty. We didn’t give it away free to members. We started selling tickets. It became really obvious that there was something going on. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I think on the first ever game, which was a Tuesday night, it wasn’t even it was against Rupesh Opposition. Darbyshire I said, Rupesh, opposition, interim.

Nobody cared about playing. Darbyshire We had a northern group. We had Lancashire, we had Yorkshire, we had Durham, we had not and Durham, Derbyshire with the least sexy opposition. And I think we had them on a Tuesday night and we had about four and a half thousand people turned up. So you might be going, wow, that’s not very many people, but it was 50 percent bigger than the biggest crowd we’ve had for the rest of the season.

And everybody paid. Nobody got that game for free. The next game was, I think, Yorkshire on a Friday night. We had over 6000 then. I don’t think we had enough stewards for the game. You know, it was like panic stations. We were running around going, what are we do? You know, we don’t have enough. Bergeron’s open. We haven’t got enough toilets open. We haven’t got enough stewards. It was fantastic.

And so was the success in the early stage of the game. Was it everything you expected or were you did it blow you away or were you a bit disappointed?

Definitely not disappointed. And I think it was it was a naturally optimistic kind of guy. I was really confident in what we’d done. I was really excited about this. But but yeah, probably Steve even exceeded my expectations. You’re absolutely right. That first day when we wanted to see just who who was coming through the gate, because a lot of this cricket didn’t and maybe still doesn’t in some areas have a have a culture of advanced ticket sales. There’s quite a lot of capacity grounds.

Often you don’t need to buy ticket months and months in advance as a perpetual problem for for the marketeers and the cricket ground. So we didn’t know until the game started, really finally how many people were going to be walking through through the doors. And we were ringing around all the grass to see how it happened. And we just got report after report after report of stadiums filling up. And it was absolutely fantastic. The response and the reaction was exactly what we wanted.

It was the right demographic. All the people we’ve been targeting were coming through those gates and we were getting goosebumps now just talking about it. It was it was fantastic. Yeah, it’s hard to describe.

But and again, this is why hopefully you’re listening and you think you marketing podcasts, you can see what we told there was a problem identified. There was research, the stakeholder engagement. There’s a new product born out of talking to your customers. And to many, market is still to this day, don’t talk enough to their customers. So you’ve got a product and it’s a runaway success. But actually, it’s not just been a success in England, has it?

I mean, today we are less than 12 hours when we’re doing this interview after the IPL auction. So cricket is the biggest game in India. There’s a billion people in India and it feels like almost everyone is a cricket fan. It’s not everyone, but it is almost everyone. And India took twenty twenty and took it onto another level. Australia and New Zealand took the game on and did great things with India, launched what they call the Indian Premier League, which is franchise cricket supported by millionaires and billionaires in India, who then started buying in all the best players from around the world to play for their franchises.

So we’re talking about twenty three, as I said when I started playing and part time contracts playing for thirty forty thousand pounds a year for six months, it’s still decent money at the time to the Indian Premier League starts in a few years later and players being bought for one point five million US dollars. One point five million US dollars, that is for six week contract it revolution. It changed the game fundamentally, you know, and this has got your fingerprints all over it.

I know you you you’re handing off the credit to the people, but this is you know, this is your baby that’s changed one of the world’s biggest sports.


Yeah, and it’s funny, it really has I mean, it’s it’s it changed the economics of the game in the UK, first in England and Wales, because because on a more modest basis, but still people, great counties and grounds for taking as much in ticket revenue for four or five, 20, 20 matches as they were from all other forms of income from their membership and other forms of attendance in those grounds. So so they suddenly had this this huge kind of in relative terms, injection of cash into their businesses that they were responsible for themselves rather than just getting the handout from international revenue.

So it changed the economics of the game in this country and definitely saved a number of counties in the process. And you’re then, right? Absolutely.

It then caught the imagination globally. And in fact, India didn’t really wake up to it for a couple of years. Actually, they won the inaugural 20 20 World Cup. The ICC got hold of this, which is the international governing body India played in that they were a powerhouse off of cricket test and one day level, but they were sniffy about 20 to start with and won the World Cup. And then a guy, really incredible guy called Modi, who is the first commissioner of the IPL, got hold of it working for the BBC that the governing body in India and you’re right, he just married together.

Those those two amazing things in India, Bollywood, entertainment and cricket, the two sort of religions almost and brought those together in this feast of entertainment and they were able to put budgets to it that we just didn’t have. And and as innovative as we were, as creative as you guys, all were in the counties to deliver to any and do a lot of off field activity and entertainment elements as well, India just had the resources to go ballistic with it.

And and they did an incredible job. And hats off, hats off to them. And I’m often asked, was that did we look at whether that was going to be international expansion was one of the things that we were planning and absolutely not to say yes to it.

Just say yes. Yeah, yeah, of course we did.

Of course we did.

And I’m sorry, I was going say, if you don’t know anything about India, if you’ve never been, we’re often in this country fed lots of stuff from America. So we maybe miss out on some of the scale and the size of things that happen in India. So I think Sakir, a Bollywood ridiculously famous Bollywood actor, Shah Shah Rukh Khan, I think is for the moment he was one of the owners of one of the first franchises. So you’ve effectively got the Brad Pitt of India owning a cricket team, which had, I think, Mr Romney, who was the David Beckham of of Indian cricket at the time, in play.

You know, imagine Brad Pitt buying Manchester United and signing Lionel Messi to play for them. That’s kind of what happened in India when the IPL took off. And there was a moment I remember it, people talking in meetings and going, what the hell is happening? It was just it was mind blowing. And so I want to fast forward a little bit and start talking about cricket. So 20/20 is flying everywhere. India, the IPL is still huge.

There’s the Pakistan Super League, the Bangladesh. You’ve got one of the big bash in Australia. New Zealand have got a competition. Everyone’s cashing in on twenty twenty. And it’s going really well, except in England where twenty twenty. We almost tried to kill the golden goose because it was bringing in so much money for counties. They wanted more and more cricket. There is a little structural backdrop to this as well, is that England is the only county that play a country that plays cricket across the English summer.

Most of the other places play in what we term as winter. So access to the best players in the world can be a bit tricky sometimes because they’re often doing other things at different times. So we never quite got all the stars in one place like the Indian Premier League did. And because we were trying to play across a whole summer rather than in a short window and 20/20 never really kicked on and boomed after an initial launch, it then plateaued and maybe even declined a little.

Yeah. Which is then led the governing body to look at introducing a new format called The Hundred, which should have been launched in twenty twenty one but has been put back. Oh sorry. It should have been launched in 2020.

It is not going to be launched in twenty one to talk to me about your thoughts on, about what happened with twenty twenty domestically in this country and was there any saving it. Do you think the ECB should have looked at launching another new format next year. So fascinating debate, this one, am I in a nutshell, I think we got greedy. The game got greedy with 20/20, the first iteration of 20/20 in 2003, the competition was over in 18 days.

It was a real feast and festival off of that format of the game, concentrating people’s focus, attention, the limited resources we had to market this advertiser, talk about it amplifier. It was better done in a short period of time to do that.

But because the counties realised and we realised the game realises what a cash cow this this potentially was those smaller counties that have small stadiums but don’t have international cricket, which is a big source of income for them. So we have smaller counties wanted more and more and more 20-20 because they could happily fill 3000 seats with the capacity as small, smallest ground, you know, twice in a week, twice in 10 days, and do that for a number of weeks on end.

The bigger crowds who were also focussing on international cricket and other just didn’t seem to have the resources and the demand to keep the stadiums full and full stadiums was what it was all about. That’s where the atmosphere gets locked in. If you’re part of an event that feels popular, looks popular, is popular, you want to go and it drives demand. The minute you start seeing a tail off and gaps in stadiums and a little perceived lack of popularity, you start ending up on a bit of a slide.

So it was almost to tears in two 20 in this country, the big stadiums weren’t quite filling their stadiums as they had previously. The smaller grounds were and wanted more and more of it. So if you look at the stats, you will see that the aggregate total attendance at twenty twenty overs live climb in the UK has continued to increase every year. But because we played more games, average attendance per game declined and that was becoming a bit of an issue.

So we then desperately and definitely needed to introduce something else into the mix. And that is where the debate around 100 started. There are two ways of potentially being able to do that. One would have been to go back to less is more, but the genie is out of the bottle. How are you going to tell some grounds that they can’t have as much of this amazing thing as as they’ve had? You could have developed a two tier system, so maybe play the Premier League.

A lot of the resources attract the best players into that. But then because it’s the sort of democratic sport where every county has the same votes, you’re a small county thinking, well, I’m going to get marooned in the second division here. I’m going to miss out on all this exposure. Why am I going to vote for turkeys voting for Christmas? So I think ultimately the ECB had no choice. They they ended up with a semi political decision.

They needed to do something more with the shortfall game, reinject the excitement, bring the best players in the world into it. The options to kind of split up the existing eighteen counties and create a different form or keep playing twenty twenty was just unpalatable. So the decision, the brave decision they took, which I kind of admire, was to say we need to differentiate a new turbo charged version of the short form of the game from the existing twenty.

And that’s why they came up with a slightly different format called The Hundred.

And now we’re now we’re not going to turn this into the cricket budget podcast. So I’m not going to go into that. The the rule change is for the hundred. But from a marketing perspective and I’ve got a blog half written about this, which I didn’t publish because the push back, the hundred launched it because of the pandemic. But it’s almost it’s about where do you place the line? There’s a line someone said to me once about a three legged dog is still a dog.

So and if you change some rules of cricket, still cricket. But to me, there’s almost a line in the branding house, if you want to call it that, at some point you push it so far and it stops being the game. So what are the things that are core to the game and have to have to be kept? And what other things can you play around with to try and make something different? So one of the things that changed is there’s only a hundred bowls, hence the name, and it’s all done in a certain time limit.

But six balls in and over is has been the way cricket has been for about eighty years. Maybe a number of it’s been formulated rules. One of the things in the hundred is one of some of us are going to be ten bowls.

Now is that pushing the line too far away that it no longer feels like cricket or will it be crossed? That line is close enough to that. Everything else is still the same as just more balls. And what I feel about the hundred without having seen it play out yet is I think that they’ve pushed the line a long way to crossing it. Now, whether they have crossed it or not, only time will tell. And as an example, to go back to what you mentioned about what twenty was in New Zealand where was called Cricket Max or something like that.

Yeah. While it looked and felt like cricket, they had things like zones on the outfield where the ball landed in there you got double the number of runs or something didn’t. So there was tweaks to the game to make it more exciting, but what they did effectively was just push the line too far and make it more difficult for people to understand. And I think when you listen to the criticism of the hundred, it sounds a lot like the criticism of 20/20.

But it’s not Brian close these days saying it, but somebody else is bringing up, you know, radio fall, frothing about psychonauts, discussing the game. It’s the same criticism. But I think the difference with twenty twenty to one hundred twenty twenty was a game. But every amateur cricket around the country has played the hundred reasons. And I think that’s a point where I think the line has been pushed a long way. Do you have any of waffled a little bit last year.

But do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think they’ve pushed it too far? Would you like to see them go further?

I think it’s close, but I don’t think it’s gone too far. It’s really interesting. You’re right. We we looked at cricket, Max, and thought that was too gimmicky. It it brought in too many new elements that because but mainly because the important thing was we were introducing 20/20.

Just back to that for a second as a means to an end. We wanted to bring a new audience and provide that sample products, if you like, to them to the longer form game. We never wanted 20/20 to be an end in itself and people only to watch 20/20. We wanted them to fall in love with cricket or at least like cricket, and then sample that the longer form of the product. It’s the sort of promotional promotional product in a sense.

And and so we didn’t want it to look too different from the bigger game. And I think that’s changed a bit. And I think we do accept that some people won’t ever want to watch, you know, four days of cricket and are happy watching a diet of the short form game to bring that into the hundred.

I’m not quite so worried.

I think for sure. The cricket cognoscenti, those people who love, still love their championship cricket, afford day cricket. They’re seven seven hour cricket. They’re not probably going to like the hundred ever. And is that a problem? Is that really a problem? If the marketing is right?

If the promotion is right, if the new audiences are targeted and persuaded properly to do this, it won’t be long before the new generations of kids coming into these games that don’t really worry about six over six ball over versus a ten ball over.

It’s the spectacle. It’s the entertainment. It’s a social occasion. It’s time with their parents. It’s sporting, it’s athleticism, it’s music. It’s all of the things that go with it. And I’m not sure it has to relate directly to a game that people play on a Tuesday night on their local rec or somewhere else. So I don’t think they have gone too far. And I think it’s an interesting one. They’re really interesting things I heard about this was it’s quite interesting that cricket is still played on an imperial basis.

There’s six ball overs. It’s back to pounds and shillings almost. It’s at least a hundred is digitising the game. Finally, you take until twenty twenty one to do that.

The pitch is still going to be a change in length though, isn’t it. That’s that’s the problem.

But I look what I want to do now. I want to jump back even further to the dim and distant past. I remember having a beer with you many, many years ago, a cricket event. And you said to me, you know, I started my career in the Milk Marketing Board. And I just remember thinking, was I was that still a thing? How old are you?

But tell us a little bit about that. And what was marketing graduate job at the Milk Marketing Board? What did you learn there? What was the set up for your career? Yeah, I loved that.

That was that. A pretty good graduate training programme, actually, side, as I said, and an international business studies degree. The I, I really kind of focussed on marketing and actually a job personality was called in those days. So I fired off surveys after my degree to the industries I was interested in working in that was small, merged with history in the food industry and of the personnel, the Seabees of the marketing. The first one that I came back was was this food marketing job at a marketing board.

But what they did is that it put a cohort of graduates each year with the full marketing mix, which was brilliant. So it was from, ah, Andi. We literally had hands in Batz making cheese through to actually and selling products at that trade shows and everything in between. So it was a really, really genuinely good insight into the full marketing mix being delivered. And it was it was it was great. And I ended up in the sponsorship, the product marketing team and the milk board then had a promotional campaign to get kids drinking more milk effectively, and they were putting switches into primary school classrooms and they sponsored quick cricket, which was the short form of cricket.

So that was my introduction to the world of cricket. And I was looking at the sponsorship from the client side, from the sponsor side. And I was invited to go over to the TCCB to help commercialise quick cricket and kind of create that a bit of a marketing products out of that. So so it was a brilliant introduction to the world of marketing.

And so when we first met, you’d already you’d left the ECB, you’d move to Warwickshire. I think you rang the marketing, then the New Hampshire, and then you move to be CEO of the Hampshire Foundation, which is slightly different role where you’re responsible for a lot more than just the marketing and consumer experience. What was that transition like moving from marketing to CEO? Yeah, I think it’s really useful. I mean, there’s lots of ways into those social CEO positions, aren’t there?

And very often you see sort of the finance roots in a lot of people that end up sort of coming through FDA and then into CEO roles. And there’s a lot of merit to that, because at the end of the day, you know, numbers are very important in any business where I where I think ultimately and it kind of depends a bit what business you’re in. But I always believe as a marketeer, we are so in tune with our consumer needs.

Ultimately, whatever you’re doing, whether it’s a service or products industry, you need someone to buy that at some point and to understand that’s what’s going to keep the wheels turning of your business. So I think this is a really useful useful for for marketers to underpin in CEO positions because they have such a broad perspective.

Now, I’m I’m absolutely not an FDA and and it really doesn’t interest me loads. And it’s the end. So I would always need in that position somebody absolutely finger on the pulse from a numbers and numbers perspective. I often have debate and I think marketing to just give the most general perspective of of any discipline, really, of over what a product or service companies is delivering to its consumer at the end of the day.

So the only thing I wish I’d had in my in my career a bit more experience, always direct sales. And I think that that would have helped. I was very much a marketer. There are more to enter the research into insight, into branding, into the whole value proposition, the customer proposition, but direct experience of working on a market stall. So we’re absolutely pulling that trigger and making that sale. I think it’s really important. It’s often the clash between marketers and salespeople, but it’s it’s two sides of the same coin.

And and you really need to understand. So any advice for anyone coming into marketing these days? I always tell kids coming into from graduate positions, if you can try and get some some full on direct sales experience, I think it will just make you a better marketer.

Yeah, no, absolutely. And there is this this tension isn’t the marketing and sales teams everywhere hating each other? You know, we we make the money, you spend the money and all this sort of tension. But at the end of the day, we should both be making each other’s lives easier. You know, the number of times, certainly in B2B organisations where sales teams seem to run the show, I know when I’m consulting there, it’s often a challenge just to to get the reader at first.

But once you get it and they start to understand that you can make their life easier, they buy into that. And tell us, where are you now?

Not so much in your office at home, but where where are you working now and what are you doing? So I think, you know, you’ve had an interesting move out of sport and into something different. Yeah, I mean, I was twenty six years in sports, administration, cricket administration, so you could argue I should have left years and years and years ago and then probably had three or four opportunities to do it, but also had three or four opportunities to stay within the game.

And I’ve enjoyed it. But now that time has come to move on. And I’m a brand strategist now, so I work for a creative branding agency, a regional agency based in Winchester, but honestly, one of the best agencies I’ve ever worked for. So I’m on the commercial and strategy directed that it’s on a massive upward growth curve. Brilliant agency who many run brand brand development, but also moving image, fantastic production team, their CGI, VFX and and I am loving it.

I mean, it really is. It’s a small organisation compared to those I worked with in the past. I joined a leadership team. There are 20 others. We’re moving premises soon. We’re expanding to 50 in the next couple of years. But actually to be really back at the sharp end and working and solving problems around value propositions, customer propositions, but using brands to do that is always a part of marketing I’ve enjoyed. And and actually to be out there right now is is is fantastic.

Do you think that the change in pace between 2000 and 2001 where you’re doing an omnibus survey with bits of paper and banging on people’s doors to this sort of instant access to data that we have now in the digital world, is that improvement? Yes, yes, it is. I’m not a philistine, I think I like change, I like I like improvements. I think you just got to harness it in the right way. There is so much data out there that it’s easy to get lost in a simple guy.

I kind of like simple solutions and often you can overcomplicate stuff too much. And I think it’s it’s easy with so much access to so much quick data to overcomplicate things I think is always useful just to remember the basics, how whatever those basics mean in your organisation or to your consumer base or to your stakeholders, whatever it is.

So I think I love the kind of the depth of knowledge that we’ve got, but the volume of it means that we end inevitably being a little bit shallow at times and what we look at. But I think it’s just just managed to set the wood for the trees and being able to kind of keep it as simple as your task needs it to be.

But, yeah, very different. A call for simplicity. I absolutely love that. More of that, please. Definitely. So just before we wrap up, I’ve got two questions to ask you to ask everybody who comes on the show, book recommendations, our podcasts, our newsletters. So what do you read? What would you recommend other people read? Yeah, to be honest, I’m not I admit, not the biggest little regret of mine, but I’ve picked out a couple and I I love cooking, so I’m going to throw a little cookbook in that style, which is a bit of fun.

So Ottolenghi simple, my Bible. I absolutely love that book. So anyone is not used to seeing it. You’ll find something in that is an amazing, amazing book I’m reading at the moment, which I’ve come to quite late and I’m sure a lot of listeners to this and views of this thinking. Oh, well, it’s been a while, but this is going to hurt Adam Kay. It’s about a young doctor making his way as a junior doctor, moving into into the health service.

It is one of the funniest books I think I’ve ever read.

It is absolutely brilliant.

This is going to hurt by Adam came and from a kind of commercial point of view.

And what I found is that the kind of where I now work something so holy sector, I was doing a bit of a deep dive into being the creative and creative agency sector and told me to read a book called Blah Blah Blah by day one of Bleeding to Death on of the co-founders and Luke’s co-founder of Tamarama, creative director with Channel four cooking for the Italian cricket team.

He’s an absolute maniac. This guy is hilarious, but it’s a brilliant insight into the agency world and that created this world.

So I would really recommend reading blah blah blah.

You got three new books for the reading list. If you want to see what book everybody’s recommended on the podcast. It’s Eximo marketing strategy dot com slash reading hyphen list on. There’s a link in the show notes as well. You can see what everybody else is recommending. So before I let you go, Stuart, last question, one question. Were you expecting me to ask you that? I haven’t asked.

The one I often get is, so how much money have you made out of twenty twenty?

And the hundreds of millions you get a slice of every IPL auction, don’t you?

I wish I wish on this day if I did. But to be honest, we never tried to do that kind of licence out to the world or even to the councils. I don’t think we would ever got off the ground. So the short answer is all I made was my salary because I was doing my job. But but yeah, that’s that’s a question that usually comes around and surprised you didn’t get that one in job. But you get the eternal glory of appearing on the Strategy Sessions podcast as well, which will be probably the highlight of your career, a distinguished career, but definitely the highlight, even if I can say that for you.

Thank you very much for your time, Stuart. And we’ll be back in two weeks with Episode 21. Thank you.