Earlier this year Cricket Australia (CA) sponsors were left 'shocked' and 'disappointed' following the news that the Australian Test cricket team had been found guilty of ball-tampering in a match against South Africa.
Some sponsors, such as the financial group Magellan, made a swift exit, choosing to move as far away from the team as possible.
Despite fans still debating the impact on cricket in Australia, CA executive GM of media, communications and marketing, Ben Amarfio, told AdNews he is confident that the brand's reputation remains intact.
In a time when it could be argued that the organisation was "on its knees", he says the proof of the brand's health is reflected in its sponsors.
"Through this really rough period we've signed Woolworths, Alinta Energy and Domain. That's three of the biggest brands in Australia, which have contributed tens of millions to the sport," Amarfio says.
"If brands are still willing to come on board and invest in the sport when we are apparently at our lowest, that's a pretty good barometer."
Having said that, Amarfio says the governing body had to have some "seriously tough" conversations with both new and older partners.
As part of the rebuilding process for CA, cultural reviews were put in place and sponsors were vocal and had direct input into how these reviews would be structured.
"They had some strong messaging for us but it was nothing that we weren't feeling," Amarfio says.
As for consumer confidence, CA isn't worried. Research from just 10 days after the ball-tampering scandal highlighted the fan sentiment around the sport and its sponsors.
Amarfio says the organisation asked questions such as:
- Would this make you less predisposed to this sponsor?
- Would you stop buying this sponsors services and goods?
- Would you stop taking your kids to cricket?
For the CA team, the research yielded surprising results.
"We did some research within 10 days of South Africa just to understand the public sentiment and the results, of which we were nervous about getting back, and we were left amazed at the resilience of the fans and the love for the sport," he says.
"Around 75% of the people that responded, baring in mind we didn't just go to cricket lovers as a sample set, in fact, the sample set was skewed to women, 63% were women.
"The 75% that came back said 'nope, no impact on my opinion', another portion was indifferent and the negative became a single digit."
As for attendance for the highly anticipated summer of cricket, airing for the first time on Seven, Amarfio says it's too early to tell, but he is quietly confident.
"Ticket sales are already up versus this time last year against the same opponents, so it's tracking in a positive way," he says.
"The proof appears in the numbers and whether people are still engaging in the sport, that's where the rubber meets the road."
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