The story goes that when Dan Migala, the Chicago-based founder of the sports marketers’ bible The Migala Report, visited his first T20 international, he was introduced in the MCG rooms to Ricky Ponting.
“And what do you do?” Migala asked Punter. “Are you a trainer or a coach with the team?”
“Ah, actually I’m the captain, mate.”
The anecdote is instructive and not because Migala, the Ponting of his field, comes out as naïve. After all, how many Chicago Cubs can you name?
It’s instructive because Migala was – a modern Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – in the inner sanctum of what has until the recent past been the country’s most traditional sport.
It was a sport that laboured, until two weeks ago, under an archaic 100-year-old governance system unfairly weighting the interests of some states above others, and one that still has yet to appoint a woman to its board, although that is likely to change soon.
Australian sport, though, is in the thrall of overseas consultants and experts; satisfying a thirst for knowledge and tactics that work in much bigger market places. And cricket, eager to please a new type of fan base, is leading the way, regardless of the mutterings of Test match only traditionalists.
Migala, and his partner at Property Consulting Group Josh Kritzler, were early on the wave.
When T20 was starting in Australia, about five years ago, Mike Young – a former Australian fielding coach and long before that a tobacco spittin’, straight talkin’ manager of the Queensland baseball team – suggested cricket officials in that state give Migala and Kritzler a call.
Graham Dixon, Queensland’s progressive and savvy CEO, saw T20 as an opportunity to take a different look at the gentleman’s game and the Americans were brought in for a three-day workshop, attended by Cricket Australia officials as well.
The pair was “excellent, and good blokes to boot,” says Queensland media manager Stephen Gray.
“They consulted to us during the start-up and have come on board again [for the Brisbane Heat ahead of the new season] with lots of fan engagement, memberships, customer experience, and sponsorship attraction and integration.”
By now they know the players’ names, of course, but they were never paid for that.
At the end of the last Big Bash League, Cricket Australia sent key officials on a US tour hosted by Migala.
“What is particularly appealing to us from what the US leagues and teams have done is the way they focus their events, and experiences of the events, around the requirements of their fans,” says Big Bash League chief Anthony Everard.
“We consider ourselves very much an entertainment proposition and believe fans come to the games to have a great experience. We have looked at the States – Major League Baseball, LA Galaxy games in MLS and the X-Games are all events we attended. It was a great opportunity to see how those American sports make fans a central part of the entertainment experience.”