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April/May 2011

Are big sports brands gaining

in the cricket market?

Gray-Nicolls has been making cricket bats for 135 years, Slazenger for 130 years and Gunn & Moore for 125 years. In Australia, Kookaburra entered the cricket arena 121 years ago. These brands have been around since cricket became a global sport 134 years ago when the first test match was played between England and Australia. Generations of cricketers grew up associating these brands with the game … will brand names like Puma, adidas, Reebok, and Nike on bats change their loyalty? FANIE HEYNS asked some retailers

Do consumers believe the magic wand in the hands of Jacques Kallis, a Slazenger, was a factor in his double-century at Centurion? Did they credit Kookaburra with helping AB de Villiers when he scored his national record-breaking 278 against Pakistan, as well as the fastest test century yet for a South African at Centurion against India? Recently, JP Duminy managed 99 off 103 balls during the ICC World Cup using his Gray-Nicolls to slam Irish bowlers with contemptuous ease to all parts of the ground.

Albie Morkel was destroyer-in-chief for the Titans when he collected 71 off 27 balls off the Nashua Cape Cobra-attack in a Standard Bank Pro20-semi-final at SuperSport Park and became the joint equal record holder for the fastest half-century in this competition at local level. Morkel used a Puma bat.

Did young potential international cricket stars take note of that brand name on his bat?

Do consumers remember these feats and the brand used when they select their next bat?

Another question is whether the use of adidas, Reebok and Nike bats by Indian players — while touring South Africa and their long exposure during the ICC Cricket World Cup — play a pivotal role in luring fans and school players away from the traditional cricket-only brands like Gunn & Moore, Slazenger, Gray-Nicolls and Kookaburra?

During the past few years major footwear and clothing brands like Reebok and Puma, and more recently, adidas and Nike, have been moving into the cricket market. Reebok was the official technical sponsor of the 2011 ICC World Cup and adidas clothes the Proteas, English and Australian teams. Nike featured prominently on the sleeves of the Indian team shirts.

Some of the top players who had been in action at the World Cup use bats from brands more associated with athletic tracks or soccer fields than cricket pitches — the little master Sachin Tendulkar bats with adidas, World Cup Man of the Series Yuvraj Singh uses Reebok and Indian destroyer Virat Kholi uses Nike, while one of the top World Cup run scorers, Devon Smith, bats with a Puma.

The sports brands have been supplying cricket clothing and footwear for many years, but are now moving into hardware. Puma has been selling bats for a few years and adidas have been testing the market, but they will seriously be targeting the SA cricket bat market this year.

These big brands have the benefit that they need no introduction and are immediately recognised by consumers. Youngsters think they are cool.

But, would they have the same credibility amongst cricketers as a brand whose main and only business has been the manufacturing of cricket equipment for more than 100 years?

The traditional cricket brands have been the trendsetters for more than ten years, and little has changed the past four years to challenge that pattern, says Mike Hermanson, owner of Sports Horizons, who claims to have 70% share of the cricket specialist retail market.

Traditional brands are outperforming the global brand names locally, and own arguably more than 80% of the top-end bats of five-star quality and better market. Traditional brands have the edge because they are generally very good marketers, he adds. Their customers also know what they will get, as, Gunn & Moore for example, has introduced computerised cutting machines for all of their bats.

But, says Hermanson, major global brands like Puma, Reebok, Nike and adidas are also credible “traditional brands” — albeit not in cricket.

Gunn & Moore is his best performer in terms of sales and is comfortably ahead of the chasing pack, says Hermanson, but recently Puma became his #2 brand.

The traditional cricket brands like Gunn & Moore and Kookaburra outperform the sports brands by 90 to 10 in terms of his sales, says Pierre Bester, owner of Brian Bands Sports in Port Elizabeth. Eastern Cape manufactured B&S also sells well. But, adidas, Nike, and Puma will sell bats because of their strong brand-names and selling power.

“Consumers (the real cricketers) understand that fashion brands are doing a branding exercise and are not cricket specialists, says Martin Ferreira, commercial director of Xco Sport. Therefore bats from traditional cricket brands are still the most popular ones locally. “But, fashion, super heroes and strong marketing campaigns will always attract consumers.”

Cricket is a specialist sport like golf and it would take some time before the big sport brands would really penetrate the market. “I do believe there is a future for specialist cricket brands. Focus, experience and passion for the game will always be a factor,” says Ferreira.

Keith McLaren, director of Planet Sport, agrees that traditional and established cricket brands are the frontrunners in the choice of bat. “Sales of adidas and Puma are, however, on the up. The reason is that adidas and Puma will sell any sport equipment, because of their strong brand name.”

The traditional cricket bat brands are more popular with knowledgeable players, agrees Monty Jacobs, former manager of the North West Cricket Shop and current coach of the North West amateur team.

Brands like adidas, Nike, Reebok and Puma are more a fashion statement and a cool product to possess (especially with the eye-catching graphics), rather than representing a superior product. “Most of them are just stickers and don’t have a real history in bat making.”

Jacobs says the visit by the Indian touring team to SA would not have lured young players to Reebok simply because Yuvraj Singh used it, or to adidas because Sachin Tendulkar bats with the brand. They would rather change to a Kookaburra because De Villiers scored a ton using a Kookaburra bat.

In SA, a homegrown brand like B&S (Bellingham & Smith) is also popular. It offers an excellent price, a top-quality product and good customer service,” says Jacobs.

Cricket bat brands from the sub-continent did well at a stage in terms of selling locally, but that was more a price-factor, says Jacobs. “You could buy three top of the range Malik bats for one Gunn & Moore. However, prices from the sub-continent have gone up and people are looking more at the traditional bat brands.

“I think in the end it is more to do with price than brand — how many people would pay R6 000 for an adidas or Puma bat just because it is cool?”

The pattern amongst younger players and their parents is to go with what is best for their pockets, adds Frikkie Janse van Rensburg, of Kloppers Sport. “For the traditional cricket brands, that’s not always good news, but even less so for the sports brand names, who are usually about 10-20% more expensive than the traditional cricket brands.”

He says there will always be a demand for the well-known cricket brands because the client has his favourite brand, and it is normally the brand he grew up with.

“That said, the younger person wants to go with the brand he knows and identifies with, and hence the demand for adidas, Puma and Reebok.”

Most sport retailers contacted by Sports Trader therefore agree that the sports brands do have “cool” appeal for some younger players and that they could make an impact in future — but that support for the traditional cricket brands should remain strong.

English speaking teams
South Africa Bat England Bat New Zealand Bat Australia Bat
Hashim Amla BAS Vampire Andrew Strauss Gray-Nicolls Martin Guptill Kookaburra Shane Watson G&M
Graeme Smith G&M Kevin Pietersen adidas Brendon McCullum Puma Brad Haddin Kookaburra
Jacques Kallis Slazenger Jonathan Trott G&M Jesse Ryder Gray-Nicolls Ricky Ponting Kookaburra
AB de Villiers Kookaburra Ian Bell adidas Ross Taylor G&M Michael Clarke Slazenger
JP Duminy Gray-Nicolls Ravi Bopara G&M Scott Styris Kookaburra Cameron White Gray-Nicolls
Faf du Plessis G&M Eoin Morgan Slazenger Kane Williamson Gray-Nicolls Mike Hussey Kookaburra
Morne van Wyk MaXed Paul Collingwood Slazenger Nathan McCullum* Puma David Hussey Gray-Nicolls
Colin Ingram B&S Matt Prior Slazenger Jacob Oram* Slazenger Steve Smith Kookaburra
Wayne Parnell* B&S Michael Yardy* Gray-Nicolls Daniel Vettori* Slazenger Mitchell Johnson* Kookaburra
Johan Botha* G&M Graeme Swann* G&M Luke Woodcock* Buzzbats Jason Krejza* Slazenger
Robin Peterson* G&M Luke Wright* Kookaburra Tim Southee* G&M Brett Lee* Reebok
Morne Morkel* Puma James Tredwell* Gray-Nicolls Hamish Bennet* Chase Shaun Tait* Nike
Dale Steyn* Slazenger Tim Bresnan* Slazenger        
Imran Tahir* CA James Anderson* Woodworm        
Lonwabo Tsotsobe* Gray-Nicolls Stuart Broad* adidas        

Asian teams & West-Indies
India Bat Sri Lanka Bat Pakistan Bat West Indies Bat
Sachin Tendulkar adidas Upal Tharanga SS Kamran Akmal G&M Chris Gayle Ihshan
Virender Sehwag Hero Honda Tilakratne Dilshan CA Muhammed Hafeez BoomBoom Devon Smith Puma
Gautam Gambhir MRF Mahela Jayawardene Reebok Asad Shafiq AS Darren Sammy BAS
Virat Kholi Nike Kumar Sangakarra SS Younus Khan Gray-Nicolls Darren Bravo SS
Yuvraj Singh Reebok Angelo Matthews Gray-Nicolls Misbah-ul-Haq CA Ramnaresh Sarwan SF
Yusuf Pathan Reebok Chamara Silva SS Umar Akmal G&M Shivnarine Chanderpaul Gray-Nicolls
MS Dhoni Reebok Thilan Samaraweera SS Shahid Afridi BoomBoom Kieran Pollard SS
Suresh Raina Sunny Gold Nuwaan Kulasekara SS Abdul Razzaq BoomBoom Dwayne Bravo adidas
Harbhajan Singh Reebok Thisara Perera SS Wahab Riaz* AS Devon Thomas SF
Zaheer Khan* Nike Muttiah Muralitharan* Reebok Umar Gul* BoomBoom Sulieman Benn* Reebok
Munaf Patel* Hero Honda Lasith Malinga* Woodworm Abdul Rehman* CA Andre Russell* SS
Ashish Nehra* SS Ajhantha Mendis* Woodworm Shoaib Akhtar* BoomBoom Devendra Bishoo* SF
Piyush Chawla* Reebok Rangana Herath* Chase        

* Players better known as bowlers

Top run scorers at World Cup
Player Country Runs Avg SR Bat
Tilakratne Dilshan Sri Lanka 467 67 93 CA
Sachin Tendulkar India 464 58 91 adidas
Jonathan Trott England 422 60 81 G&M
Kumar Sangakkara Sri Lanka 417 104 85 SS
Upul Tharanga Sri Lanka 393 66 87 SS
Virender Sehwag India 380 54 123 Hero Honda
AB de Villiers South Africa 353 88 108 Kookaburra
Yuvraj Singh India 341 85 86 Reebok
Andrew Strauss England 334 48 94 Gray-Nicolls
Brad Haddin Australia 332 55 79 Kookaburra

The Indian factor:

Sports brands at the World Cup

The Asian sub-continent came to the crease during the recent ICC World Cup and showed the world that it is a cricketing power of note. With India the current ODI title holder and #1 test team, Sri Lanka playing in the World Cup final and Pakistan in the semi-finals, the bats used by players from these countries were certainly in the spotlight

In India cricket is much more than just a sport. It is a belief system that even impacts on the economy - two Australian economists found that whenever India loses an ODI game, it “generates a significant downward movement in the stock market.” What’s more, reported the Indian Express*, if Sachin Tendulkar is in the losing team, the stock market drops almost 20% more!

Yet, if Tendulkar scores a hundred, millions of Indians do not mind going to sleep on a hungry stomach, an Indian cricket commentator remarked. Nobody contradicted him.

Tendulkar was recently signed by adidas to use their bat. Eight of the thirteen players (62%) who regularly represented India during the 2011 ICC World Cup, used bats from international sports brands Reebok, adidas and Nike (see table).

Reebok was the technical clothing sponsor of the recent ICC World Cup (as well as the Sri Lanka national team) and according to Reebok India MD Subhinder Singh Prem, it is the best-selling cricket equipment brand in cricket-mad India.

Their new Zig Sonic trainer was the official trainer of the ICC World Cup.

Nike was the technical clothing sponsor for the Indian team, and adidas for South Africa, Australia and England.

Adidas, Nike and Reebok appears to have taken an interest in the cricket market due to the rise of the middle class in India, where cricket is the national sport, says Anne Vilas of Opal Sport. Furthermore, the Indian Premier League (IPL) has been a vehicle for them to be associated with a new innovative and “sexy” game, which appeals to the masses. I believe they are looking more for the global brand recognition this will bring than increasing profits from selling cricket equipment.

“But, Puma has been a supplier of cricket footwear for many, many years and have been in the equipment game much longer than the others, and is therefore a slightly different animal,” says Vilas.

When looking at the list of Indian batsmen who used the big sporting name brands, instead of the more traditional bat brands, it is clear to see where the new strategy has shifted, says Derrin Bassage of Puma SA (see table).

These are huge stars of the game with iconic status. India not only won the 2011 ICC World Cup, but is also ranked #1 as a test playing nation. India is an exciting market with huge potential considering the economy, population (1.2-bn) and fanatic cricket following culture. This is not something new, as local (sub-continent) brands such as MRF, CA and SS are also active there. What is different, is that the sport brands have a heritage in sport that gives them more credibility, he adds.

“T20 cricket has definitely changed dramatically, which has brought a new dimension and attitude to the game,” says Bassage. “This type of cricket welcomes innovation and is all about entertainment. Presently the demand is still strong for the bigger traditional brands, but each brand will look to create their own unique niche, which will influence sales.

“PUMA is an aspirational brand and therefore players strive to be able to use the bats. Over the last few years we have seen our biggest growth in the younger age groups. This may have to do with young teenagers trying to express themselves and make a bold statement.”

Young players always look up to their icons when it comes to buying patterns and we already have an icon like Sachin Tendulkar using an adidas bat, which has an enormous impact on young players,” says Zobuzwe Ngobese, public relations manager of adidas SA.

“In SA, we have a scenario where most professional players are using traditional brands because they are tied into contracts. With the emergence of big name sporting brands, this scenario is changing.”

“From an adidas SA point of view, we are only launching our cricket hardware in June and we are already targeting the next generation of Proteas players, which includes up and coming players, as well as well-known players. We will sign these players by the end of this year.

“So, in the next three to five years the picture of who is playing with what would have changed with the growing number of players using big name sports brands like adidas.”

*Team India's misfortune hits stock mkt, posted on on 6 October 2010.

Tradition prevails, say cricket brands

So far, the entry of the sports brands have not yet affected the sales of the traditional cricket brands.

“Feedback from Australia and England suggests that the market share of the traditional cricket companies such as Gunn & Moore, Gray-Nicolls and Kookaburra have actually increased. Certainly ours (Gunn & Moore) has,” says Peter Wright, MD of Gunn & Moore.

“As far as I know cricketers, like golfers, appreciate the quality, commitment to innovation and reliability afforded by experts in their particular sport — rather than a generic brand that covers a multitude of sports. Specialisation engenders customer loyalty and recommendation,” he adds.

“Youngsters today follow their heroes very closely and this affects their choice of equipment. Kookaburra bat sales increased by 46% in 2009/10,” confirms Chris Bryant, of JRT Crampton, local distributor of Kookaburra.

Slazenger’s sales also grew by 20% in 2010, adds Mark Ridl of Super-Brands, local distributor of Slazenger.

While the big sports brands that arrive on the cricket scene automatically have instant brand recognition and may have built a rapport with the young cricketers through other sports codes, the traditional cricket brands have built up their credibility in the sport for over a hundred years, explains Ridl.

“Big sport brands that have diversified into different sporting codes bring big brand appeal to the cricket market, and hopefully will contribute to interest and growth in the sport.

“While they do enjoy a large amount of brand equity in the sports industry, in a specialised sport like cricket the quality of product, price points as well as the players that give the brand credibility, are key points when selling.

“Cricket brands have spent over a hundred years dedicating every bit of R+D into developing the best techniques for crafting cricket equipment, and also forged relationships with the best willow suppliers. Cricket requires specialised equipment and it takes years of trial and error to become a specialised or traditional brand,” he says.

“You can liken it to the leading specialist Swiss watch makers. There will always be a demand for the top watch makers in the world as they have built up the reputation as being the best over hundreds of years. If a so called big brand came along and put its name on a Swiss watch and claimed that it offered the same level of watch making skills, it would take some convincing to have buy-in from the consumer.”

Cricket has always been a very traditional sport, which explains the loyalty to the traditional brands, says Wayne Schonegevel, director of OBO SA, local distributor of Aero protective and SS bats.

“However, due to the strong brand presence of the international sports brands, these brands will make their mark, especially in the image conscious youth market.

“Traditional cricket brand sales tend be driven by iconic players endorsing the brand as well as product innovation, whereas the sports brands fall back on their international brand presence and general brand ethos. Both appeal to different segments of the market.”

Homegrown advantage

Apart from the major sports brands making their mark at the 2011 ICC World Cup, it was also noticeable how many players used brands originating in their country or sub-continent (see box) — e.g. CA, SS, SF (India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) and BoomBoom (Pakistan).

This tournament has shown that the sub-continent has become a major cricketing power, with the top batsmen and bowlers predominantly from India and Sri Lanka. Two thirds of the World Cup Tournament team consists of players from the sub-continent (Sri Lanka 4, India 3, Pakistan 1, South Africa 2 - AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn - Australia 1 and New Zealand 1). Six of the ten top run scorers are from India and Sri Lanka (granted, they had more time at the crease, but they performed consistently!).

That means that the bat brands from the sub-continent were also seen in the hands of the top players. Nearly half (46%) of the thirteen players who regularly played for Sri Lanka use the Indian brand SS, including two of the tournament’s top run scorers, Sangakarra and Tharanga. The highest run scorer in the ICC World Cup tournament (with 146 runs), Tilakratne Dilshan, uses a CA bat.

While the players from the West Indies also favour the bat brands from the sub-continent, players from South Africa, England, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia predominantly use bats from the traditional English and Australian cricketing brands. Except the South African players using our own B&S brand.

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