Can the Ashes brand cope with ten test matches in just six months?
2013 will provide the biggest ever year of Ashes cricket. Five test matches in England will be swiftly followed by an Ashes tour down under to save another draining Ashes/World Cup tour of epic proportions. That is ten test matches in six months between 10th July and 2nd January.
Will this timeline ensure over exposure for the Ashes brand in the UK? Will sponsors get value for money and will Sky Sports presenters maintain their enthusiasm? Can the British public maintain interest when the norm is at least 15 months to build excitement between series, not just 82 days?
The answer to all these questions is squarely based on the form of the England and Wales cricket team. If back to back Ashes series had taken place during the England versus Australia of my youth, with the cards stacked against us with Warne*, Waugh, Healy and McGrath et al helping inflict one crushing Aussie win followed swiftly by another, then the Ashes brand would have been dealt a cruel blow, in the UK at least. Demoralising defeats do not inspire new sponsors, TV advertising money, Sky Sports subscriptions or increased participation in any sport.
However since 2005 we’ve won three out of four series and all is good in the world. The Aussies are short of form and sacked their coach 16 days before the first test while England are clear favourites again, Kevin Pietersen is back to fitness, a little gem of a player has been found in Joe Root and confidence is running high.
Should everything go to plan on the field in the next few months, and surely it will (let’s just not think about the chance that the results will go against us), then the Aussies will be soundly beaten and the Ashes regained on home soil. There is nothing better than a winning England test team and it will ensure the Ashes brand will flourish – Sky Sports subscriptions will get a boost, Botham and the boys will have the bragging rights Down Under, the sporting public will be buoyed and no doubt provide value for money for sponsors by taking the keys to brand new Jaguars, supping copious amounts of Pedigree bitter, reading The Times and switching their weekly shop to Waitrose!
Rather than can the Ashes brand survive ten tests in six months, the real question has to be can the British public survive the 19 month wait between January 2014 to July 2015.
Come on England!
*My Ashes claim to fame was that I was in Australia for the 1994/95 series and was unfortunate enough to witness Shane Warne’s one and only test match hat-trick at the MCG boxing day test
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