World Cup: Getting the fans involved

Adrian Phillips is a PR-man working for a sponsor at the World Cup. He’s got nine flights in 14 days as he pursues the tournament round India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh …

After spending nearly 10 days in the subcontinent it’s pretty clear to see that they don’t like cricket here, they love it. If you know anyone that lives and breathes the sport, think again. In contrast to England, in India and Bangladesh it’s clear that even the non-sporting fans are fully aware of what the sport involves – what an ‘over’ is and who the captain of their side is.

This has an obvious effect on the business side of the sport, and means that anybody who is anybody wants to get involved to show their support for the game. While I watch England collapse and then cling on against West Indies on Star Cricket Live TV, the ad break is dominated by the sport, with four out of five commercials tailored to cricket. A local businessman tells me that this is not just because the World Cup is on, it’s the norm. The local banks even have cricket stumps and adverts in their windows.

At each game I have been present at so far, every sponsor of the tournament has passionately tried to capitalise on their investment in their own way. MoneyGram, Castrol, LG and Emirates all hand out 4/6 cards to the crowds as they enter the stands; these are more popular than you can ever imagine.

At the South Africa v Ireland game on Tuesday, we had a queue of 100 people inside the stadium, eagerly competing to be given one of our red foam ‘out’ hands to wave frantically each time there is an appeal. The blow up ‘clappers’  are equally as popular, with local fans snatching and scrapping to be given one.

Pepsi seem to have invested heavily in TV commercials with their slogan ‘Change the game’. The locals love these as they involve a cricketing hero from each nation (usually a batsman) simulating one of their preferred shots in an entertaining fashion. MS Dhoni’s ‘helicopter’ shot is comically performed. It starts by Dhoni being shown how to revolve a handle on a water well, before the scene transforms into him playing the shot in a match with a similar bat motion.

There are plenty of other promotions that involve the crowd, with prizes and the chance to enjoy a lap of honour around the stadium. The crowds seem to love the chance to feel involved. With the music and sponsors activity intertwined, the whole show at every game makes for a fantastic spectacle. Even the less popular games seem to be able to come alive when these events are put on to entertain the crowds.

Adrian plays his club cricket for Takeley CC, in the Herts and Essex League.

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