Sports retail suffering? Think again

Many of the world’s leading sports brands recently announced their annual results for the financial year ending June 2014. In a world that is still slowly recovering from the 2008/9 recession, it is remarkable to see how many of the well-known sports brands increased their revenue and sales (although not always profits) over the period July 2013 to June 2014.  Sports goods are not cheap but it wouldn’t appear to put off consumers. It could of course be argued that a lot of the growth in global revenue and sales is driven by marketing campaigns around major sport events, and to a degree that is true.  The FIFA World Cup in Brazil earlier this year, as well as the cricket and rugby World Cups looming in 2015, necessitate mega-promotions around the world. Nevertheless, the results are generally speaking not what one would have expected. Here are some of the notable… Continue reading

Looking forward to the 2015 World Cup

South Africa has started their Cricket World Cup preparations in Zimbabwe and there have been some encouraging signs. As expected, they easily defeated Zimbabwe in the three match ODI series and won the Triangular with Australia. Of the eight matches they won seven and beat Australia twice. The Proteas now have ODI tours to Australia where they play five matches and to New Zealand, where they play three matches, in preparation for the Australasia World Cup in February and March 2015. They then conclude their preparations with five ODI’S against the West Indies in South Africa. The South African team that leaves for the 2015 World Cup will have been better prepared than any of their six predecessors that have  participated since the country’s first World Cup in 1992. Cricket South Africa and the team management must be congratulated on leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the Proteas have their best… Continue reading

Understanding your professional contract

When sportsmen misbehave or throw their toys out the cot (think Luis Suarez, Frans Steyn or Herschelle Gibbs), people are usually quick to say their employers should sort them out just like you would for any other employee.  This, however, is only partially true as a professional sports employment contract is not always as legally binding as one would expect of a contract. A professional contract doesn’t allow the sportsman to willy-nilly disregard its content, but it is very important that the sportsman knows it is different from a “normal” employment contract and that the context in which it operates makes it a kind of its own. A conventional contract of employment consists of two parties, the employer and employee.  It can loosely be described as a mutual agreement in terms of which the employee for a specific period and remuneration places his services under the authority of an employer. … Continue reading

International cricket and the T20 game

There is a concern developing amongst the cricket administrators that the T20 game around the world will have a detrimental effect on international cricket as we know it. There is more and more talk of players becoming free agents and only playing T20 cricket. In a recent survey done by FICA only fifty percent of professional cricketers’ ambition is to play for their country. In years gone by this was a hundred percent. In reality does the T20 game really hold these threats for international cricket? The only T20 tournament that is rich is the Indian Premier League. The Big Bash League in Australia is the next richest and then the Caribbean Premier League, but neither can compare with the IPL. In England and New Zealand they have scrapped their tournaments and now play a league. Sri Lanka has for the time being shelved any ideas of a T20 tournament… Continue reading

The sponsor’s view of an athlete endorsement

Finally, the time will arrive for all the sponsorship activation plans to become reality.  For the majority of athletes this will be a completely new experience and, in certain areas of activation, quite possible the only time they’ll do it. The athlete needs to know what he is letting himself in for; the sponsor (and by extension, its advertising or event management agency) needs to be mindful of his subject. Activation is never a simple process and can be fraught with danger and obstacles.  Meticulous planning is needed.  The cardinal sin is to rest on your laurels and expect certain things just to fall in place on the day of activation. But when done professionally the results of a successful sponsorship activation plan will catapult the sponsor’s brand and the athlete’s image into the consciousness of the target audience in ways that pure advertising cannot. The athlete’s buy-in and level… Continue reading

South African cricket needs spin culture

  Dane Piedt the debutant off spinner against Zimbabwe enjoyed a fantastic match for the Proteas when he took 8 wickets for 152 runs in Harare. It has been the most promising debut for a South African spinner since Paul Adams way back in 1995. The young spinner now needs to be managed and nurtured; something that South African cricket is not good at. South African cricket has historically struggled to produce quality spinners but has probably produced the best fast bowlers in the history of the game. One only has to think back to Neil Adcock, Peter Heine, Peter and Shaun Pollock, Mike Procter, Alan Donald, Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn to mention but a few. There were many other real quality South African fast bowlers that other countries would have died for. There are probably only two spinners, Hugh Tayfield and Paul Adams, who made an impact for… Continue reading

Unlocking Social Media for athletes – 20 June 2014

Social media is tailor-made for international athletes, not big brands and corporates.  A simple comparative exercise will prove this point: According to, the five strongest South African brands in 2013 were, with their Twitter followers in brackets:  MTN (101,000), Vodacom (119,000), Sasol (173 sic!), Standard Bank (32,000) and Absa Bank (19,800). Total Twitter followers:  271,973. The first five batsmen in the last Test match the Proteas played against Australia at Newlands in March were, with their Twitter followers in brackets:  Graeme Smith (654,000), Alviro Petersen (68,500), Dean Elgar (2,922), Hashim Amla (370,000) and AB de Villiers (1,260,000).  Total Twitter followers:  2,355,422. Proof that social media offers top athletes an incredible platform to not only improve their public image, but also unlock unlimited exposure for their sponsors.  David Carter, an American authority on sports business and strategic marketing, recently remarked that even “a mid-level player with social media savvy can… Continue reading

South African-born players in County Cricket – 6 June 2014

On 16 May 2008, the county ground at Grace Road, Leicester was the scene of what was to become a watershed moment in English cricket. Leicestershire was hosting Northamptonshire and on any other day it would have been the last day of just another rain-affected county championship match. But, as cricinfo famously described it, the teams resembled a “United Nations conference”.  No fewer than thirteen overseas-born players (i.e. players who didn’t qualify to play for England) participated in the match.  More pertinently, nine of those were South Africans:  HD Ackerman, Boeta Dippenaar, Jacques du Toit, Claude Henderson and Dillon du Preez for Leicestershire; Nicky Boje, Lance Klusener, Andrew Hall and Johan van der Wath for Northamptonshire.  (Make it ten if you want to throw Kepler Wessels’ son, Riki, into the equation; although he was born in Australia he qualified to play for South Africa through his father’s citizenship.) As a… Continue reading

Hashim Amla next Protea captain? – 30 May 2014

The Cricket South Africa Board meets on the 3rd June to approve the new Proteas captain. However, there is little doubt that the Board will appoint Hashim Amla captain now that he has made himself available and has shown enthusiasm for the captaincy. There are a few reasons that will make him the CSA Board’s choice for this important position.  He is assured of his place in the team and is a very experienced world class player. Also, he has leadership skills and experience having captained the SA U19 team and the Dolphins.  Very importantly he has never been aligned with any camp in the Proteas team during the past and is his own man. Transformation will also play an important part in the Board’s decision and they will not let slip the opportunity to appoint South Africa’s first black cricket captain on merit. He is the best man to… Continue reading

Too close for comfort – 23 May 2014

English football star Wayne Rooney will never sign for any other club than Manchester United and here’s why:   In February this year Rooney signed a new four-year deal with Manchester United that remunerates him on three different tiers.  It has been said that the deal has made Rooney “the most innovatively paid player in the world”. The first tier of the deal is Rooney’s basic salary, reported to be around £300,000 per week.  The second tier is payment for his image rights.  In essence Manchester United will pay Rooney an annual fee to use him as part of a collective of other Manchester United players for promotional activities, either directly for the club or for the club’s manifold sponsors.  This part of his contract, according to reports, basically doubles his weekly income. The first two tiers of the deal are run-of-the-mill in terms of the basic structure of Premier… Continue reading