T20 cricket: A breakthrough product
Twenty20 cricket is a huge innovation which should over time expand the size of the market. It is, to use the language of marketing, a breakthrough product. Great marketing breakthroughs are mainly of two sorts.
One genre consists of financial innovations enabling companies to sell existing products at dramatically lower price points. A prime example of this is cellular telephony, where Indian companies have learnt to make money at very low tariffs.
The other sort is exemplified by YouTube or eBay or Apple’s iPod, which have created markets which did not exist. Twenty20 is closer to the second type, creating a dramatically different type of cricket, which has the potential to increase the popularity of the game, reaching audiences which were previously not interested.
Twenty20 cricket was first started in England on the county circuit in 2003. That was an attempt to increase cricket’s popularity since in the country where it was invented, cricket is a minor sport compared to football and rugby. It has taken time to catch on in India, but has now done so with a vengeance.
Advertising slots were sold by ESPN-Star Sports at rates ranging from Rs 7.5-10 lakh for a 10 second slot, the highest in the history of Indian television (ET, September 25). The International Cricket Conference (ICC) has ambitious plans for this latest version of cricket.
They hope to popularise Twenty20 cricket in new markets such as the US, possibly even China. In trying to reach those unfamiliar with the game Twenty20 gets rid of what is considered a major obstacle to its popularity, the interminable duration of cricket games. Test matches last five days and the ‘traditional’ 50 over match can go on for 8-10 hours. In contrast Twenty20 last just over three hours, shorter than a five set tennis match.
Like all variants, there are fears that Twenty20 will cannibalise other established products. It’s not clear this would happen. Test cricket has remained popular despite One-Day Internationals being around for over three decades. If anything it’s the ODIs which could be threatened, being essentially a similar product. That remains to be seen, meanwhile let the sixes flow.