Cricket Australia must be applauded for the appointment of new Test team coach Darren Lehmann. Aside from Lehmann’s ability as a coach, the appointment also sends a potentially powerful marketing signal about Australia’s Test team, which has been through a tumultuous period.
It’s an appointment that works on numerous levels. Lehmann has the capacity to restore the public’s admiration of Australian cricketers by rebuilding a culture to which its fans can relate: Mateship; backing your instincts; and, above all, enjoying the challenges before you, then winding down with a beer (but not too many!) with your teammates at the end of play.
Australian cricket has been built upon this legacy, and by jumping on the front foot with Lehmann’s appointment, Cricket Australia has recognised the team has lost its appeal in the wider community. Consequently, it had started to lose its valuable place in the sports marketing firmament.
National team of choice
It no longer has the strategic advantage over other sports, with the likes of the Socceroos and Wallabies challenging its status as the national team of choice for general sports fans. Poor results and wavering discipline had also contributed to a diminished team ethos.
In a little under a week, Cricket Australia starts the most important 12 months since Kerry Packer’s World Series cricket undermined amateurism and the ‘gentleman’ status of cricket.
In this period, Cricket Australia will try to restate the relevance of the five-day game into a society that is limited by time, impatience, and a changing demographic through way of immigration. They have to find the appeal in the contest; and what better way to do it than against the old foe, Mother England.
Australia has been reinstated as underdogs, as in the last two series (‘09 and ‘11) we were beaten convincingly by a better side. There was still hope then that with legends such as Ponting and Hussey we would be too good for the English. Those convincing losses further detracted from the Australian Cricket team’s status.
But Australians in any sport have a history of getting the best results when they have their backs to the wall. Cricket Australia must not only promote this, but build an ‘Us vs Them’ mentality, which will galvanise and promote a united home front.
Underdog status as a powerful brand tool
Through this underdog status, Cricket Australia has the opportunity to develop and reconnect with a whole new demographic: the Aussie Battler. This is an element of identity the Australian team lost during the success of Australian cricketers in the 90s and 2000s.
It is no surprise that Cricket Australia is promoting Pakistan-born Fawad Ahmed’s recent Australian citizenship and searching for avenues to reach the broader community of immigrants within Australia. Just as Lenny Pascoe (the son of Macedonian immigrants) did in World Series cricket, Ahmed appeals to the ever-changing Australian community.
In recent times, the Australian team has looked and performed like a team of lost individuals. On and off the field they’ve been searching for their place – very similarly to the organisation that employs them.
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