Spas, socks and jelly babies

It’s that time of year again, the time when cricketers and their clubs – from school, to league and Franchise – announce new deals with sponsors and fresh endorsements from suppliers and begin to look forward to the new season with renewed and vigorous enthusiasm.

Spring may not yet be in the air – in fact we remain the grip of winter – but pre-season training has started at the Franchises and everybody knows that the nights will stay freezing for much longer and soon enough the first nets will be prepared and the season will be upon us.

There may even be good news coming from the Wanderers. For the first time in 20 years as a cricket journalist I am grateful for the fact that nobody is talking publicly on a matter or national concern. Everybody from the GCB and CSA is (belatedly) maintaining a dignified silence but the private word from the ‘inside’ is that relations, like the winter, have thawed and steady progress is being made. Thank goodness. It seems England may yet play at SA’s headquarters after all.

Some deals are easier to make and easier to ‘sell’ than others. Many years ago, when the national team was still coming to terms with the new ‘skinless chicken breast and pasta’ dietary regime, Bob Woolmer was delighted at the ease with which he acquired a supplier for the jelly babies that players were encouraged to chomp through the day. And the ‘Proteas turn to Jelly Babies’ story was compulsive writing so the sponsor also earned plenty of press coverage.

Recently, the Cape Cobras sent out an invitation to media to come and visit the squad at a Spa. Presumably because the Spa has been persuaded to provide free treatments to the Cobras. Unfortunately, the invitation came just a couple of weeks after an other missive to media demanding that all interviews with players should be preceded by a written request to the media officer.

The subsequent invitation to meet the players at a venue in which they will, presumably, spend a significant part of the season being pampered lacked temptation.

Perhaps the very best of the many hundreds of product endorsements I have ever seen, however, was recently released by the Chevrolet Warriors. Mohair socks. Only jockstraps could be less marketable than socks, but nothing is beyond the challenge of a Warrior so they powered ahead with their new, snuggly footwear endorsement deal. And against all odds, they pulled it off!

Inspired but subtle use of humour is the key  – not only was I laughing out loud when I read the press release, but I will go out of my way to purchase not just one but several pairs of the special socks when I next see them.

The first sentence is an attention-grabber of some note:

“Cape Mohair Ltd and Cricket Eastern Cape have joined forces to make sure the Chevrolet Warriors step onto the field in the most technical cricket socks on the market.”

Oh come on, don’t tell me you’re not interested in the rest of it?!

“The players were all given technically designed socks last season and these were put to the test.  After giving feedback to Cape Mohair Ltd new designs were put together and the players will now take to the field in socks manufactured to match their specific requirements,” the statement says with an admirably straight face.

The next paragraph, however, brings the house down. I’ll never forget the penpics of the Samoan rugby team at the 1999 World Cup. “Peter Fatiolofa is a powerful tight head prop and a piano mover…” Well, this is right up there.

“Denys Hobson, CEO Cape Mohair Ltd said: ‘As a leg spin bowler I know all about having the right socks.’

Laugh? I nearly cried with it! Perhaps that’s why there are so few leg spinners, let alone successful ones. For all these years nobody seems to have given sufficient thought to the importance of socks to wrist-spinning.

Hobson continues: ‘We are delighted to be able to supply specially manufactured socks to the Chevrolet Warriors.  Many people are not aware of the functional and health benefits of mohair. Mohair, a natural performer, provides excellent absorbency which goes a long way to prevent blisters and keep the feet dry.’

Not to be completely outdone, Warriors chief executive Dave Emslie has the last word – and it’s another absolute ripper:

“Cricket Eastern Cape are delighted to have Cape Mohair Ltd as their partner in making sure the players receive superior quality gear. The bowlers especially are looking forward to putting their new socks to the test” said Dave Emslie, CEO.”

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to write a press release. If and when I’m invited to the official launch of the socks, or even relaunch seeing as they were test-driven last season, I’ll be there like a shot!

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