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August 31, 2010
The 2010 Champions League Twenty20 in South Africa will be a success but there are challenges to building its popularity, the tournament's CEO Sundar Raman has said.
Last year's tournament drew low television ratings and relatively sparse crowds in India, the world's largest cricket market, for matches not involving IPL sides. Raman admitted the lack of team recognition is a problem and one the tournament committee is working hard to fix.
"For us it is very important that people know the teams," Raman said in an interview with Sportz Power, a website that covers the business of sport in India. "South Africa is going to be different because they are used to a club culture. Now we are starting with an advantage because they know the two South African teams and they know the three IPL teams, so recognition is not 3 on 12 [last year] but it's 5 on 10. So that's a big advantage for us."
At the same time, Raman said that in any global tournament, be it the cricket or football World Cups, there will be teams that are unfamiliar to a particular country's fans. "Here you have three teams to follow, and not one team to follow. That is the big advantage [for Indian fans]."
Still, despite the club culture in South Africa, ticket sales have been mixed to this point. Raman expected Durban and Port Elizabeth to have full houses but said there were concerns about Centurion, which doesn't have a home team in the tournament, and Johannesburg, which does not feature either an Indian or a South African team.
"See CL T20 we have to be clear is not going to get international visitors, rather it's going to develop the local market. That's the big challenge for us and I think that's what we should start focusing on rather than trying to get the world to descend on South Africa."
The other important change this year, Raman said, is to let the quality of cricket be its own advertisement instead of diluting it with Bollywood-style entertainment. The tournament was conceived as a global event, so what entertainment there will be is aimed at a global audience, which is why Enrique Iglesias was chosen to sing the theme song.
"It has to have relevance," Raman said. "Someone like Enrique cuts across genres and brings in a new set of audiences. Our belief has always been that T20 is a great platform to get new audiences into the game. For us this is a big advantage. Bringing in Enrique, taking the tournament to South Africa, adds more fans."
The tournament, which begins on September 10, is being aggressively promoted around the world. In India, ESPN Star Sports (ESS), which owns the broadcast rights, has signed Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan as the event's brand ambassador and has been running a string of ads featuring the actor and players such as Sourav Ganguly and Andrew Symonds. The three IPL teams - Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians - are also running their own marketing campaigns to drum up excitement among their fans.
"Each of the sub-licensees of ESPN Star Sports are promoting it in a big way," Raman said. "Eurosport is broadcasting in 13 languages, then they have ESPN broadcasting in the Caribbean market. It's a big investment that all of us have made in this. Australia is doing some serious promotion through publicity and on-air promotions. So the tournament is being promoted pretty heavily through our broadcasters."
The end result is an event Raman believes will appeal to the viewer in India and the spectator in South Africa. "I am more confident than I was last year because I have seen what the product was last year. I believe that not only will it be a huge success in India but it will be far more well received in India. You have to acknowledge India is the market where there are sizeable TV audiences and South Africa is where the stadium audiences are."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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