How Not To Market A Product

As The Hundred begins its marketing campaign for next season, it seems like a good time to talk about some incredibly basic things to consider when selling something. It seems like the ECB needs all the help it can get.

The most basic tenet of marketing, at least as far as I understand it, is to always consider your audience. This encapsulates two concepts: The audience you currently have, and the audience you want to attract.

For @TheHundred, the first demographic is very easy to define: English cricket fans. Before a ball has been bowled, or a game televised, the only people who will have any interest in an upcoming domestic cricket competition’s Twitter account are obviously people who already like the sport. They almost certainly follow the England cricket team, and are more likely than not to be familiar with county cricket too. They might be men or women, young or old, rich or poor, but they all have that in common.

Knowing that, the obvious approach would be to use @TheHundred Twitter account to promote the cricketers involved in the competition. “You like this player? You can see him next summer in The Hundred.” The people following the account will already know them, and you might persuade some of those followers who were on the fence about the whole thing to give it the benefit of the doubt. It’s not sexy, it won’t win you an award for innovative marketing, but it works.

One incredibly odd choice for The Hundred is when its tweets and posts give every impression of being dismissive or downright hostile towards county cricket and its fans. I struggle to think of any example where a company has attacked or insulted its own customers whilst promoting a new product. For example: Coca Cola owns both ‘Coke’ and ‘Innocent Drinks’ (or at least 90% of it). Innocent’s Twitter account has never said, “Coke is incredibly bad for your health. Drink Innocent’s smoothies instead!” Literally no responsible company would do that, ever.

But the England And Wales Cricket Board do.

The second group, the Twitter account’s presumed target audience, is the more interesting aspect of The Hundred’s marketing efforts so far. It has been stated repeatedly by its proponents that The Hundred is designed to reach people who might be discouraged by their impression of the T20 Blast as a competition for ‘lads’. To quote Simon Hughes: “A lot of people feeling the Blast is not a game for them because it’s largely middle class and largely white, and particularly a kind of beer-fest. […] It has become a piss-up, actually.

If you look at who responded to The Hundred’s Twitter relaunch positively, and there wasn’t that many, a clear pattern emerges: They are all youngish men aged roughly 25-40. No women, no British Asians, no kids. Just blokes who I would guess like a drink and some ‘bantz’. If The Hundred’s aim was to draw in a new diverse audience for English cricket, they appear to be failing badly.

This is not a surprise to me, although I suspect the same could not be said for many at the ECB. My impression is that children or even the under-25s rarely use Twitter. Instagram, TikTok and Twitch all seem to have a younger user base, and so might be better platforms for attracting schoolkids or young adults to cricket. I would hesitate to even speculate on the best way to draw British Asians into English domestic cricket, but it’s not immediately obvious that the ECB have tried anything beyond creating a franchise-style competition vaguely reminiscent of the IPL/PSL/BPL.

The worse misstep in the ECB’s marketing approach regards women. The tone of The Hundred’s Twitter output could be charitably described as ‘laddish’. The thing to remember about this kind of the behaviour is that it is generally how men act when in the company of other men. Women tend not to participate in it, nor find it appealing. This might be why the vast majority of internet trolls appear to be male. If you were promoting a new competition which proclaimed (falsely, in my opinion) to be based on the principle of gender equality, with both the men’s and women’s competitions inextricably linked, why would you choose to project such an obnoxious and exclusively male personality on social media?

The problem the ECB face is that this is not an isolated problem with regards to their promoting cricket outside of their core white male demographic. If you remember last year’s launch of The Hundred’s website, the stock photo used prominently on the front page was literally the top Google result for “male audience”. When Andrew Strauss first announced The Hundred on Radio Five Live, he implied that the reason more women weren’t cricket fans was because they weren’t able to understand the game. There are two things which these three events have in common. The first is that they all demonstrate a chronic inability to consider the ECB’s output from the perspective of a female audience, which leaves them struggling to connect with roughly half of the UK population. The second (and more damning) commonality is that each of them would have been thoroughly prepared over several months. None of them could be excused as mistakes made in haste. Every detail will have been pored over by virtually the entire PR/marketing/social media arm of the ECB, not to mention a few very well-paid executives, and no one appeared to notice any issues.

Being ‘Outside Cricket’, I must admit to having almost no knowledge of the ECB’s inner workings. That said, I would be utterly unsurprised if I were to discover that the people involved in these debacles were almost exclusively white men aged thirty and above. Particularly when it comes to the senior roles where decisions are made. Whilst perhaps not essential, having a diverse staff must surely help when it comes to attracting a diverse audience. Otherwise you risk seeming out of touch, patronising, and frankly a bit of a joke.

Thanks for reading. If you have any comments about this, or anything else which came up during our extended break, please post them below.

8 thoughts on “How Not To Market A Product

  1. Benny Oct 15, 2020 / 8:06 pm

    You’ve hit the nail on the head Danny. When venturing into foreign lands, you do need the assistance of someone with the right knowledge (I like travel guides). The ECB are guessing. The Hundred might actually work, if it were a copy of the IPL, but it isn’t (I bet they haven’t consulted any IPL organisers), That’s apart from whether we need another competition. Your presumption about the demographic is likely true – add in know little about cricket, the market, the public …….

    Like

  2. thebogfather Oct 16, 2020 / 7:37 am

    #TheHundred’s twitter feed has proved so popular that it’s crashed twitter worldwide…

    p.s. mine’s been down for over 12 hours now – is everyone else still the same?

    Like

    • dannycricket Oct 16, 2020 / 8:13 am

      Working fine for me. Try refreshing the page or close & re-open the app.

      Like

    • dArthez Oct 27, 2020 / 4:51 am

      It has not been that active. The hashtag informs me that Moeen Ali and Sophie Devine are captains for the Birmingham franchise. That is pretty much all the hashtag has shown me in the last four days, from a plethora of sources.

      Even #tumbleweed shows more action in the last few days. I think the intern was fired, and they restructured the position in such a way that a person above the age of 60, and never having used social media in their lives, got the gig.

      Like

  3. David Oct 16, 2020 / 10:39 pm

    It all just smacks of group-think doesn’t it? That and the lack of actual cricket IQ involved at any point in the decision-making process. Very amused at the idea that somehow a ‘witty’ twitter page is going to suddenly convince thousands to pay out for tickets in a post-COVID world, when they could spend money on the sports that they actually already care about…..

    Like

  4. dArthez Oct 27, 2020 / 4:41 am

    Maybe an idea for the ECB: Claim royalties, so that they can rake in money from “How not to market a product” from textbooks. That way they don’t even have to play the Hundred to rake in the money.

    That is a win-win for everyone.

    Like

  5. dArthez Oct 27, 2020 / 4:55 am

    And in slightly happier news: CSA Board all out. Never has been an all out score by a home team cheered for THIS much by home supporters, at least not in South Africa. As an added bonus, this seems to have increased the chances of England’s tour next month going ahead. Yeah, normally that would be a statement for Bizarro World, but hey, the CSA board were that special.

    Now the question is what will happen in the interim, and will the elections (due for December 5) be postponed again – and will we get remotely competent people on the new board, and in the interim in an acting capacity?

    Like

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