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September 22, 2022

Q&A: CSM’s Dominic Walker on The Hundred

CSM's Dominic Walker discusses the agency's role for English cricket's newest domestic format.

By Euan Cunningham

As the dust settles following the conclusion of the second season of The Hundred, English cricket’s newest and most-debated domestic format, GlobalData Sport asked CSM's Dominic Walker about the sports agency's remit for the competition.

CSM is the exclusive partner of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) governing body involved in identifying and securing commercial partnerships for the tournament, which involves both men’s and women’s editions featuring eight city-based franchise teams. Walker is the UK-based agency’s associate director of strategy.

The Hundred is significant in terms of being the main domestic English cricket competition for which the ECB is responsible for selecting partner brands. All other competitions see the 18 professional first-class counties make the majority of arrangements themselves in this department.

Following Walker’s answers are quotes drawn from similar interviews with Rob Calder, the tournament’s commercial director, and from Kevin McNair, marketing director at KP Snacks, the brand acting as the front-of-shirt sponsor for all teams.

What have been the main opportunities and challenges of finding commercial partners for The Hundred?   Walker: "Building a commercial partner family for The Hundred presented a unique challenge in that we had to build everything from scratch, using projections and a vision to sell the opportunity. The commercial strategy was informed by The Hundred’s brand and the competition’s objectives, which meant a move away from cricket’s traditional sectors, such as finance, and towards categories that would allow the competition to unlock new, family audiences. 

"Sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods could take a message into the high street where we could actually get the brand front and center in households across the country through point-of-sale packaging. Partnerships with household brands such KP Snacks, Unilever, and Robinson’s demonstrate both the success of this approach and the strength of the proposition."

Calder: "The way we’ve approached our commercial partners is – what scale do they bring, what profile do they bring, what audience do they bring? … 

"Brands weren’t sure what the long-term future of the competition was in advance of its launching. That was something we were conscious of before we launched but not so much now when brands are pushing us for longer-term relationships now it’s established."

How has CSM's partnership with the ECB worked on a logistical level?   Walker: "CSM has the mandate to search for new sponsors for The Hundred before bringing the ECB into joint negotiations in the latter stages. At CSM we've leveraged our strategy and consultancy division to guide the process. Prospective brands were identified by the agency’s Insight team before being passed onto the relevant sector-specialist sales team for brand-led outreach."

What benefits have the format brought in terms of brands coming on board?   Walker: "The way we structured the commercial partner proposition was purposely done to say to brands: ‘You can speak to consumers at every single touchpoint. We’re going to give you full protection, and, actually, anyone that turns on and engages in the Hundred will engage with your brand, because it’s going to run right through the line as a campaign and as a program.'

"Other benefits of The Hundred that appealed to brands include its compact nature, which provides them with a distinct window to deliver impact, and the simplicity of the format, which makes it more accessible to a wider audience."

McNair: "The number of brands fitted perfectly with the number of teams we wanted to invest in through marketing – there was never a situation where one would be left out.

"We used both science and gut feel to work out in which geographical areas we needed to improve our share of different brands in, and then allocating them to the teams in those areas. The ECB also helped tell us about the different characteristics of each ground, so we could decide which brands might do better in different locations."

Calder: "We recognized we were building new teams so we didn’t want the same brand across all the shirts as we wanted to create more differentiation. We feel that’s worked really well. Having the shirt branding under one umbrella was the brief – that was what we thought was the right way forward."

How does The Hundred relate to other events, leagues, and properties CSM has been working with in terms of sponsorship activity?   Walker: "CSM is proud to work with a range of blue-chip properties in sport and entertainment, both in the UK and internationally. The Hundred process has differed to others insomuch as the competition was unproven and untested ahead of the 2021 inaugural edition.

"However, the fundamentals of the go-to-market approach remain the same: strategic clarity around the proposition; insight-led brand prospect identification and outreach; and brand-led proposals that seek to deliver against business and marketing objectives."

Calder: "In terms of differentiating it from other ECB tournaments, The Hundred has really been built in terms of founding principles, on overcoming barriers and realizing opportunities for new audiences.

"We think the tournament definitely has more than just a novelty factor – it’s got such a sound grounding in audience understanding we undertook in previous years.

"Some of the audience numbers we’re seeing are transformational – we always said we wanted to reach the next generation and more women, and now we’re seeing that."

Part one of GlobalData Sports' Inside The Hundred feature is an exclusive interview with Calder, while part two is a wide-ranging chat with McNair covering KP Snacks' involvement in the tournament.

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