It irked me on a number of levels. Whilst I do appreciate the form Michael Clarke has been in since he met the model in question, I’m not so fussed about the message that is being relayed here.Firstly, that it is merely proximity to fame and talent that should be celebrated. Kyly Clarke may be a lovely woman, but it is anyone’s guess what Rebel Sport were thinking when they chose to sponsor her above world class Australian athletes like Sally Pearson, Lauren Jackson, or perhaps most poignantly as far as I see it, Ellyse Perry. Were Rebel Sport merely reacting to what the market (or more accurately the demographers) tell them? I’d really hope not.
The thing is, Australia does have a world-beating cricket team at the moment: the Southern Stars. But unless you were a very diligent and committed cricket fan, you might not know about it. Cricket Australia itself might have come a long way from the days where the women’s team paid their own way (yes, consider that for a moment; the best female cricketers in the world paid for their own flights and uniforms to represent their country. Isn’t that completely embarrassing?) but the promotion of the women’s game and its stars still leaves a lot to be desired.
On ABC’s Offsiders a couple of months back, Gerard Whately referred to the Clarke/Rebel sport deal as, “a really crystalizing moment of failure that I think we should all own rather than just blame the marketers.” He was right actually. I don’t watch as much women’s cricket as I probably should, so it’s slightly hypocritical for me to complain about its lack of coverage. What can you and I do? Watch the Southern Stars definitely, but also vote with our clicks, tweets and views, because if there is one thing Cricket Australia take notice of, it’s modern marketing metrics.
Australian cricket is desperate for good news stories of late, but CA steadfastly refused to push forward their best in any meaningful way. Their inability to leverage the talent and clear marketability of Ellyse Perry is possibly the greatest damnation of all. Perry could be a golden goose, and not just for the women’s game, but then the CA marketing department seems to be a metaphorical goose of a less appealing kind. Perry is by their definition “one of 4 CA cricket ambassadors.” What this actually involves is only currently known to those sitting on Jolimont street.
Perry is a superstar by any definition, a dual-sport champion who was an international player in both cricket and football by the time she reached her 16th birthday and had represented her country in world cups in both sports. She is arguably the most talented and accomplished all-round sportsperson in Australia. It is impossible to overstate how incredible her achievements are, unless you’re a sports marketing person, apparently. It’s not inconceivable to say that were she a male athlete, she’d be the most famous sportsperson in Australia. We should all share the shame that she’s not even close.
In return for her ability and efforts, so far Perry has gotten the arse from one of her football teams and been the subject of risible twaddle like this from so-called cricket lovers. The mind boggles
Does Ellyse Perry front national advertising campaigns for major brands? No. Did she feature prominently in the marketing material put forward by CA in the lead-up to the season? Nope. Apparently it is more lucrative to pimp out self-obsessed and injury prone non-entities like Shane Watson than a female Bo Jackson who bowled her country to a World Cup Final victory on a completely obliterated ankle. How was Perry’s grimacing but joyous face not plastered over the front of every newspaper in the country after that? Why weren't sporting brands throwing endorsements at her left right and centre? Will I reach a world record for exasperated rhetorical questions just by thinking about Ellyse Perry’s situation for five minutes?
So in summary, here are some places you WON’T find Ellyse Perry:
- On the homepage of Cricket Australia’s website. In actual fact, when I logged on there was not a woman to be seen at all unless you hunted around through links.
- Fronting a national advertising campaign for any major brand. Not sports goods, not sports supplements, nothing. Perhaps if Perry was a code-hopper and not a code-straddler she’d be better off?
- On any television commercials (to be fair, any TV ad involving cricket in Australia has to include the Madden brothers, so maybe she’s rebuked those offers) promoting Cricket Australia or its sponsors.
Perry should be a household name who stares down at us from billboards, instead she is virtually invisible and a minor blip on the pop cultural radar.
Speculation about the upcoming media rights deal has me thinking though; Cricket Australia have an opportunity right now and it would be remiss of them to ignore it. By ensuring that Perry was utilised in the major advertising campaigns and commercial coverage of the international game in Australia next summer, they would be killing two birds with one stone. They would be livening up TV coverage that seems to get staler by the year and they would also be appealing to the precious youthful and female demographics they seem so obsessed with at the moment. And just say it quietly, they'd also be taking focus off the fact that they have more than few unlikable characters in the men's team.
This isn't inconceivable; Perry has shown herself to have some serious presenting chops. The times I have seen her on TV she is a confident, bubbly and assured performer with personality. Give her the boundary-riders mic at the very least. Sure her playing schedule won’t allow her to join the broadcasting team for every game but it’d be a nice change from the leering mug of Bet365's Billy Baxter.
Put her on posters, put her on ads, sit her front and centre because she’s likable attractive and a proven performer on the field. There is zero risk and the potential for significant gains, particularly in the participation and interest of new female fans. CA’s cross-town rivals at the AFL realized this long ago and more than half of their current audience is made up of women. For an organisation apparently looking to move away from their traditional supporter base of middle-aged men, the potential for CA to miss this chance is almost too painful to watch.
It was interesting that during one of his increasingly rare public utterances, Steve Waugh recently took the opportunity to suggest that Big Bash franchises each included some talent from the women’s game in their line-ups. For now it seems that our former captain’s exuberance for the women’s game isn’t shared by the marketing people or the custodians of the game in Australia.
The clock is ticking, guys.