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April/May 2009

Cricket heroes

DO sell bats

Cricket heroes
Fans are being treated to a feast of international cricket with some of the biggest names becoming familiar faces on our pitches and TV screens. Since the end of last year, we’ve gotten to know the Australian team rather well. Then the IPL fielded some of the world’s most entertaining and best known players. The T20 World Cup in June and ICC Champions Trophy in September follow a tour to Zimbabwe. Hardly a day goes by that our Protea team players are not in the news. Which begs the question: will all this focus on cricket heroes sell more bats? NELLE DU TOIT did a survey among schools players

Does bat sponsorship for cricket players influence the type of bat a young cricketer will aspire to buy? Do young cricket players take note of which batsman plays with which brand of bat? If the young cricket player in question is six years or older and a cricket fan, the answer is, without any doubt, yes!

Sports Trader recently did a survey among primary and high school cricket players* and found that young cricketers knew far more about the bats used by international players than most cricket-following adults would. Two young cricketers didn’t just know which batting brand each top player played with, but they also knew exactly the bat make and model.

Anyone who thinks that the performance and personality of a batsman won’t influence how young cricketers look at that brand of bat is living on an isolated island called Denial. Four of the respondents — from different schools — unequivocally said that they aspired to play with the bat used by certain cricket heroes, not the specific bat brand or model. Two respondents said that they aspired to play with whichever bat Herschelle Gibbs played with (currently GM Icon DMX), another said AB de Villiers’ bat (Kookaburra Kahuna) and yet another dreamed of playing with JP Duminy’s bat (Gray-Nicolls Nitro).

SA cricket’s newsmakers certainly make an impact on the young cricketers who support them. A high 89% of the participants knew that Jacques Kallis has scored 10 000 runs in test cricket. Granted, as the only SA batsman with 10 000 test and 10 000 ODI runs, more than 100 catches and 250 test wickets, Kallis is considered to be SA’s best batsman and one of the world’s best all-rounders — he therefore should be well-known.

Favourite batsmen

Not surprisingly then, his name also came up frequently when the respondents were asked who their favourite batsman is. He was mentioned as the favourite player by the third most respondents. Interesting to note that when Sports Trader did a bat survey in 2002**, Kallis was also one of the favourite batsmen.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the kids responding to the 2009 survey knew that Kallis played with a Slazenger bat — many more than in the 2002 survey when 60% of the respondents knew his bat brand.

The majority of respondents (74%) knew which brand the captain, Graeme Smith, plays with (GM). This was the highest player-bat recognition.

Smith also proved to be the most popular. Smith, who has been captaining the Protea team since the 2003 Cricket World Cup, has the distinction of having been part of all of SA’s opening partnerships of over 300 runs.

The fact that Smith and opening partner Herschelle Gibbs (fourth favourite batsman) are both sponsored by GM, means immeasurable exposure for the brand. Flamboyant Gibbs will forever be remembered for his 175 off just 111 balls to help win what became known as the 438 ODI against Australia in 2006.

JP Duminy, second favourite with AB de Villiers amongst the boys surveyed, is also currently one of the most written about players in the team. It has been a fairy tale ride for Duminy, who made the most of the opportunity presented when he was given a place in the Protea team as a replacement for injured vice-captain Ashwell Prince. Since he made his cricket breakthrough on 17th December 2008 against Australia at the WACA where he scored 50 not out and hit the winning runs, and then proceeded to win the next test for SA with 166 runs, his fame has spread so far that the Mumbai Indians bid $950 000 to have him play for their IPL team. This was enough to put Duminy on the map: 75% of the respondents in the Sports Trader survey knew that JP Duminy replaced Ashwell Prince in the Protea team. The fact that he had only been in the limelight for five months at the time, probably account for the fact that only 47% of the respondents knew he was sponsored by Gray-Nicolls — several thought that he was still sponsored by D&P.

The energetic AB de Villiers, who got the second most votes as favourite (with Duminy), holds the record for playing the most test matches without registering a duck. More than half (57%%) of the respondents were aware of De Villiers being sponsored by Kookaburra.

Even though he is a bowler, Makhaya Ntini is so popular that he was named as favourite batsman by 4% of respondents.

Know batsman’s brands

As expected, most of the boys who responded have their cricket heroes — only 15% said that they didn’t have a favourite batsman and that a cricketing hero won’t influence the type of bat they would like to own. This is far fewer compared to the 40% of boys surveyed in 2002 who didn’t have a cricket hero.

Johan Botha, who made his debut as ODI captain in Australia last December, adds further exposure for GM. More than half (51%) of the respondents were aware that Botha plays with a GM bat, which is high recognition, considering that he returned to the Protea team — as bowler — at the end of last year. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of the boys knew that Botha captained the Proteas in the ODI series in Australia.

Eighty-two percent of the young cricketers knew that Morne and Albie Morkel are the two brothers that play for the Proteas.

Since Morne only recently signed a contract with Puma, it is not surprising that not many knew that he uses a Puma bat (20%). This can also be ascribed to the fact that he is more of a bowler than a batsman and Puma isn’t a traditional cricket bat brand, which means the logo would not be instantly recognised by viewers watching a batsman.

More learners knew that his brother, Albie, was playing with WASP (36%). Albie was also mentioned as one of the favourite batsmen amongst the boys.

International recognition

Following a team’s success is easier when you are a supporter. When asked to name the captain of the team holding the Cricket World Cup, several respondents answered Graeme Smith (OK, maybe a trick question as we are currently the top ranked ODI team). Only 64% knew that Australia was the current holder of the World Cup and Ricky Ponting was the captain.

At the time of the survey, SA had been playing back-to-back series against Australia and the Aussie cricketers were constantly in the news. Ponting is probably the best known current Australian cricketer, was last year’s ICC Cricket Player of the Year and is currently ranked 5th best batsman in ODI’s and 8th best in test cricket by the ICC — no wonder 62% of the respondents knew that he played with a Kookaburra bat.

This recognition of Ponting’s bat is a higher percentage than the number of respondents who recognised the bat brands used by Proteas JP Duminy, AB de Villiers, Johan Botha, Morne Morkel, Hashim Amla (BAS, 43%) and Albie Morkel who have received far less media exposure than Ponting during their careers.

Yet, when asked who the Australian cricketer was who scored back-to-back centuries in his second test match, a surprisingly high 57% got it right. Phil Hughes is the youngest player in test history to score a century in both the first and second innings of a test match and he did that in his second test after being called up to replace Matthew Hayden during Australia’s tour to SA in February this year.

But, when choosing a hero, young cricketers don’t necessarily choose a cricketer from the team they are supporting. One of the respondents said that his favourite batsman is former Australian Hayden, who played his last test match on 3rd January 2009 against SA. When he announced his retirement from cricket he shared the 6th position with Jacques Kallis on the all-time list of the most test centuries.

Young cricketers seem to be loyal towards the bat brand they own — or many already own the type of bat that they desire. The highest percentage (20%) of the players who own a GM bat also rate it as their favourite bat brand. The same goes for Gray Nicolls. These two brands were also the brands that most young cricketers aspired to own — 27% of the respondents aspired to play with GM if money was no object, while 14% aspired to play with Gray-Nicollls.

Brand loyalty

The third most aspirational bats are Kookaburra (12%) and fourth Slazenger and Puma (both 10%). In Cape schools where the brand is well-known, D&P was also an aspirational bat brand.

The support for Puma is quite interesting to note, since it isn’t a traditional bat brand. The recent signing of England’s cricket star Andrew Flintoff and SA’s Morne Morkel by Puma probably made a difference to the brand’s recognition and aspirational level amongst the young cricketers. Puma has always been more of a cricket apparel sponsor, and is the footwear/lifestyle sponsor of players like Gibbs, Makhaya Ntini, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Duminy, etc.

But, a cricket hero is not always the determining factor when a player aspires to own a bat: One respondent said that his ultimate bat would be the same Kookaburra bat that AB de Villiers uses (Kookaburra Kahuna) — but De Villiers isn’t his favourite batsman. This player wanted the Kookaburra bat because he noted that a batsman he considered to be a good player, uses it.

GM (26%), Slazenger (20%), Kookaburra (15%), Gray-Nicolls (11%), B&S (10%) and D&P (10%) are the bat brands currently owned by most of the young cricketers.

Some respondents named their current bat, but didn’t choose a favourite. This could suggest that they haven’t yet made up their mind which bat is their favourite or that they are quite happy with the current bat they own.

Overall, there is a trend of brand loyalty amongst the respondents. Many wanted to stay with the bat they currently play with — which is good news for brands like GM, Gray-Nicolls, Slazenger, Kookaburra and Puma.

* This survey is based on a small sample (74) of cricketers from 18 primary and high schools in Johannesburg and Cape Town and can in no way be construed to be scientific. Sports Trader gave random schools and coaches questionnaires to complete and consider the responses merely as consumer trends.
** Previous survey: Sports Trader 3rd Quarter 2002: How do schoolboys choose their bats?

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