In any normal year, an Ashes series would be the undoubted highlight of an English cricket summer.
However, this year’s England v Australia series is a little different though, coming on the back of a Cricket World Cup in which the host nation triumphed in a Lord’s final heralded as one of the sport’s greatest-ever contests.
Therefore, the challenge is on for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the host of the series, to maintain the momentum and ensure the Ashes builds on the interest experienced by many, for whom the Cricket World Cup may have been their first proper taste of the sport.
Concerning the fan experience and engagement plans for the Ashes, ECB Marketing Manager Chris Heasman tells Fan XP: “Building from the ‘We Are England Cricket’ brand, our ‘We Are…’ campaign aims to celebrate everything that makes the Specsavers Ashes series so special – from the players, to the venues, to the opposition.
“The campaign extends across social and digital OOH (out-of-home), as well as through branded experiential assets en route to the venues and within the grounds themselves.”
The 2019 Ashes commenced on August 1 at Edgbaston, the home of Warwickshire County Cricket Club and renowned as the most atmospheric ground in English cricket. The ECB’s fan experience plan for the first Test was tailored around this fact, while also bringing England bowler, Warwickshire’s Chris Woakes, to the fore.
A similar approach is set to be utilised as the series moves on for its final four Tests at Lord’s, Headingley, Old Trafford and The Oval.
Heasman says: “Our approach is broadly consistent across the venues, with a local flavour added through relevant player imagery and messaging. At Edgbaston, for example, our campaign assets featured local hero Chris Woakes and emphasised both the ground’s ‘Fortress’ identity, as well as its unique atmosphere.”
With the Cricket World Cup being an International Cricket Council (ICC) event hosted by England and Wales, the ECB will be able to offer enhanced fan engagement options for the Ashes through its status as a ‘fully owned’ event of the national governing body.
Heasman said: “One of the key differences is our ability to use clips and highlights of match action on our digital and social channels as they happen, helping us to bring fans closer to the action along with our broadcast partners Sky and the BBC. As with the Cricket World Cup, we’ll continue to take supporters behind-the-scenes to feel what it’s like to be part of the England camp.”
It is worth reflecting on eye-catching insights from the Cricket World Cup though. The ICC’s report into the tournament, published ahead of the final, detailed the competition’s exposure to new and diverse audiences. Over four million ticket applications were received from 157 different countries, with 18% of tickets sold overseas.
However, the World Cup also provided the domestic game with a new audience with more than 35% of UK attendees having not purchased tickets for cricket matches in England and Wales before the tournament.
In host cities, over 230,000 fans attended official fan zones ahead of the final. A younger and more inclusive audience was also reported, with more than 9% being under the age of 16 and 150,000 being women or girls.
Responding to how the ECB will seek to build on these figures for the Ashes and beyond, Heasman adds: “As part of a long-term strategy, our aims to grow the game and nurture the core remain the same. We’re already seeing how the World Cup has acted as a catalyst to our plans, as shown by the increase in followers we’ve seen across our digital channels, for example.
“We’ll be looking to engage with those fans described as first-time ticket buyers through our CRM programme, inviting them to continue their experience this summer and looking ahead to an exciting year of cricket in 2020.”
This exclusive insight into the Ashes is part of “Fan XP” – a newsletter designed to keep you abreast of the latest innovations, strategies and more regarding fan experience across the globe. To sign up, please click here.