Citi Moments in the DLF IPL

It was billed as a unique blend of sport and entertainment and it would be churlish to deny that a mixture music from Prime Circle and Snow Patrol in between bouts of Shane Warne bowling to Sachin Tendulkar, with Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden in full cry, was a heady fusion to absorb. Brilliant indeed.

If such a fusion of cricket and music was available to South Africans every season then there can be no doubt that crowds would be even better than they are currently for the domestic Standard Bank Pro20. There are many positive lessons to be learned for Cricket South Africa and its sponsors from having the tournament here.

Not everything during the tournament ‘worked’. Not from a live spectating point of view, from a television watching perspective and most certainly not as far as good business was concerned. The IPL and its administrators proved themselves to be infinitely more experienced at doing short term deals, at short notice, than CSA and its provincial members. But everyone lives and learns.

If the ability to market a sports tournament is usually a science, then the IPL and its South African partners raised it to art. The people saw IPL, they heard IPL and they read IPL – and they bought tickets and came to the IPL. Crowd figures exceeded all expectations and then exceeded all pre-tournament hopes, too.

In sport, money can buy success. Chelsea and Manchester United are proof of that. So when the IPL handed their South African agents an ‘above the line’ budget in excess of R125 million, some marketeers would say it was harder for them to fail than succeed.

Coke-a-Cola was the first great global brand which proved that you can sell a lot of anything to a lot of people with enough money. Marketed as sexy, satisfying and most famously ‘refreshingly good,’ the truth was that it contains an average of seven tea spoons of refined sugar per bottle and doesn’t have a single redeeming feature as far as health or well being is concerned. Never mind. It sold and is extremely popular.

But you can only judge the IPL by bums on seats – never mind their budget – and for that they must be congratulated on their success.
Standard Bank, however, for all their wealth, do not have R125 million to spend on promoting the Pro20 but there is definitely a future in combining cricket with other, mainstream forms of entertainment – like good live music – without the need to resort to fireworks, repetitive playing of team songs for every boundary and stadium DJs who implore supporters of a particular team to “make some noise.” That should happen naturally and bare some relation to what is happening on the field.

In the absence of a tournament ‘commissioner’ as powerful and important as Lalit Modi, the Pro20 could also save money on the extra cameras it requires to screen the boss 15 times per match and Standard Bank will win more friends by sticking to branding the tournament alone rather than sixes and ‘turning points’.

If they take the best of the IPL’s innovations, however, and incorporate them with sophistication, then South Africa can not only lead the way in ‘cricketainment’ domestically, but make a brilliant reality of the Southern Premier League (SPL) involving teams from Australia and perhaps New Zealand.

The new venture is still subject to dozens of contractual agreements and much discussion, but if South Africa can make the IPL happen at 25 days notice it seems reasonable to assume the SPL can be made to happen in time for its scheduled debut season in 2011.

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