Vodafone pulls plug on Australian cricket
Australian cricket will be in search of a new Test match sponsor ahead of the 2013-14 Ashes series, after Vodafone announced it would end a union that has lasted 11 years and furnished the game with more than Aus$10 million in financial support. The telecommunications company will end its relationship with Cricket Australia following the end of next summer's series against South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Vodafone first chimed in as Australia's major Test-match backer when Ansett Airlines collapsed just weeks ahead of the 2001-02 home summer, and has promoted the brands Orange, Three and Vodafone in turn over more than a decade. However the company's recent series of network and customer service problems in Australia has prompted a change in focus; the network is also withdrawing its presence in Australia's V8 motor racing competition.
"Like all sports' sponsorships, there comes a time when the sponsor achieves its partnership objectives and moves on with new strategic priorities," CA's commercial general manager, Mike McKenna, said. "We understand that Test cricket has helped Orange, Three and Vodafone become Australian household names, and we look forward to continuing to work with Vodafone next summer in what will be the final season of our successful relationship.
"Our partner, via these brands, has helped us promote Test cricket and the sport is better for their long-term support."
While McKenna stressed CA's view that "the Australian team playing Test cricket at home is possibly the most valuable sports' sponsorship asset in Australia", the search for a new major sponsor may yet prove vexing.
CA is already heavily reliant on alcohol and fast food sponsorship to maintain the corporate slice of its revenue, and Twenty20 Big Bash League teams all complained last year of the difficulties in finding new sponsors in an increasingly competitive and financially frugal marketplace.
However the lure of a home Ashes series in 2013-14 to begin the new partnership is CA's ace in their pursuit of a new name to emblazon on the Test shirts of its players and sight screens of the country's grounds.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here