If, as I suggested earlier this week, Twenty20 cricket needs to be regarded as entertainment, there can be only one way to describe the XXXX Gold “Beach Cricket” competition starting this weekend – as the latest shot in a turf war between two breweries.

One of the official sponsors of Australian cricket is VB, owned by the Foster’s Group. VB/Foster’s is also a major sponsor of several state cricket associations, with the notable exception of the XXXX Gold Queensland Bulls.

Apart from that one sponsorship, Lion Nathan, the owners of XXXX, are largely frozen out of the nation’s major summer sport.

This weekend sees the start of the “beach cricket” competition not only sponsored but also managed by Lion Nathan through XXXX.

It is more than a coincidence that the “competition” between teams from Australia, England and the West Indies is being played in Queensland, WA and NSW on the same weekends as the sanctioned Commonwealth Bank One Day series is being played in those states.

The Australian team is captained by Allan Border who had to step down as an Australian Test selector as a result of his alignment with an event sponsored by a rival to an official sponsor – even though his association with XXXX and Lion Nathan dates back 20 years.

XXXX has spent millions promoting the beach cricket series to be played at Coolangatta beach this weekend, Scarborough beach in Perth the weekend after and Maroubra beach in Sydney on the first weekend in February. No doubt Maroubra’s most famous resident and sporting tragic, Robert James Carr, will be in the front row!

Even though the series will feature some great names from the past, such as Border, Graham Gooch and Courtney Walsh (the Australian team includes the greatest fast bowling partnership of all – Thommo and Lillee), Cricket Australia will regard it as no more than an irritant.

In fact it will probably end up benefiting Cricket Australia because when the VB/Foster’s sponsorship is up for renewal it will be able to ask for a bigger increase in the contract than usual!

And the massive and costly media campaign funded by XXXX has had zero impact on the popularity of the official one day series with this Friday’s Gabba match between Australia and England certain to be a 40,000 crowd sell out. It will be the same story at the WACA and the SCG in the coming weeks.

XXXX will get the publicity and marketing it seeks – and looking at just how much Foster’s/VB has eroded its market share in Queensland in particular, it needs it!

Peter Fray

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