Chris Waters - World Cup has mountain to climb to match all the hype

Afghanistan's Gulbadin Naib is out caught by England's Ben Stokes during the ICC Cricket World Cup Warm up match.
Afghanistan's Gulbadin Naib is out caught by England's Ben Stokes during the ICC Cricket World Cup Warm up match.
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WHETHER this turns out to be the best World Cup ever remains to be seen.

READ MORE - Chris Waters on day one at Headingley between Yorkshire and Hampshire

That it is the most hyped-up in history is beyond any doubt.

If you do not know by now that the competition is about to get going (it kicks off when England play South Africa at the Oval on Thursday), then there are two possibilities: either you are not a cricket fan or you live in a cave somewhere without access to the wider world, let alone the World Wide Web.

The extent of the hype – and indeed the marketing efforts that have gone into the event – struck me the other day when I received an email from a London PR firm.

“Hi Chris, following the announcement this week of the England’s ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup squad, the ECB has launched a new film called Express Yourself which shows the stars of the England Cricket squad as you’ve never seen them before, including Yorkshire’s Bradford-born Jonny Bairstow as a Jedi Knight!

“The campaign brings to life the excitement and energy of world-class cricket and gives fans an insight into the lives of this diverse group of players – telling their stories, showcasing their skills and exploring their passions both on and off the field.”

Attached was a 60-second video clip/film which, said the spiel, was “co-created with England captain Eoin Morgan and features a riot of sound and colour as cricket archive footage and visual effects are fused together to celebrate the England team.”

The film, which will be shown in cinemas before feature-length movies to help generate interest, effectively kickstarts the ECB’s wider Express Yourself campaign, which will feature additional player videos/insights on ECB channels in the coming weeks.

It is, when you think about it, a striking example of the way in which the game is changing.

Not just cricket, of course, but all sports in this digital age, with a constant stream of information/promotion via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and the like, almost all of it designed to win over/appeal to a younger audience.

The England kit launch for the World Cup, for example, saw a mass of promotion across multiple platforms which temporarily turned the players into catwalk models.

The ECB’s Express Yourself film, incidentally, is indeed “a riot of sound and colour” – accompanied by the song Express Yourself by Diplo ft Nicky Da B (I’m sure you know it well) – and will no doubt delight that youthful market.

At present, all you need to do is load up Twitter and you are literally bombarded by World Cup promo of every type, articles galore and all angles covered.

The England kit launch for the World Cup, for example, saw a mass of promotion across multiple platforms which temporarily turned the players into catwalk models.

Chris Waters

This will be replicated next year when the ECB’s controversial 100-ball tournament gets under way.

Once that starts, it will be impossible to move for all the hype that will no doubt attend its launch.

Sport is increasingly an incessant, intensive, interactive experience, a world away from the pre-Internet era.

Whether you think that is good or bad probably depends on your age, with cricket facing a battle to stay relevant in this changing landscape.

Recent ECB research indicated that only five per cent of British children aged six-15 list cricket in their top-two favourite sports, while cricket’s ticket-buying public is apparently 94 per cent white British and 82 per cent male, with an average age of 50.

Never before has there been such a difference between that demographic and the one to which the ECB is now appealing.

Cricket has effectively become two different sports watched by two different sets of people, albeit with plenty of scope for crossover.

The hype, of course, will only get louder, hype that some will love as much as others will not.

Let us hope that the hype in this case is matched by the quality of cricket and that the World Cup is a magnificent tournament pleasurable to all.