Advertising: Cricket may get Tango'd in bid to ditch stuffy image

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The Independent Online
The English Cricket Board has appointed one of the hippest advertising agencies in Britain to revamp the game's image. Paul McCann hears why the game needs a makeover.

Picture the scene: a gentle English summer's day, 13 men in white on a village green and the sound of leather on willow. Then a man in an orange wig runs on to the field and bludgeons the batsman with a huge inflatable orange hand. Cricket has been Tango'd.

The image is not so far- fetched. To the horror of many a retired colonel, English cricket has hired the advertising agency responsible for the Tango ads to update the image of the game and make it appeal to a younger generation.

HHCL & Partners, who have swept every award in the advertising industry with weird and wonderful work for Tango, made a name for themselves as the saviours of outdated products. From Martini to Pot Noodles the agency has rescued the image of the unfashionable, the naff and the dull, so they should be perfect for cricket.

"There are some perceptions that aren't helpful in attracting a new and younger audience to the game," says Richard Masters of the ECB, who admits the game is seen as old-fashioned and class-ridden. "We want to blow away a few of those traditional images to make it more of a current game to younger audiences. We want to give it more general, positive values. HHCL has done this for other brands and cricket is no different."

If traditionalists are likely to be shocked by the description of cricket as a brand they will have to wait until the summer to see what HHCL comes up with to "reposition" that brand. A pounds 1m campaign will start this summer and run through to the Cricket World Cup in 1999. The ECB hopes the World Cup, when teams will play in coloured clothes for the first time in England, will do for it what Euro 96 did for football.

More optimistically, the ECB hopes the World Cup and HHCL's advertising can turn around the perception that the game is run by upper-class twits: "We want it to build confidence in the sport and in its administration and in the way that it is run. Euro 96 achieved lots for the Football Association and we want to do a similar job for cricket."

The ECB needs to revamp cricket's image, so that it can sell 500,000 tickets for the World Cup, when 12 teams, including less glamorous sides like Scotland and Kenya, will play 42 matches around the country in May and June.