2019 saw arguably one of the most exciting summers that fans of cricket have ever witnessed.
A slow-burning World Cup culminated in a tense finale with Ben Stokes’ last stand at Lord’s winning the trophy for England. That was followed by a gripping Ashes series, retained by the visiting Australians.
As cricket looks to build on the successes of last summer, Sport Industry Group chatted to Andy Muggleton, Commercial Director, MCC about the state of the game, the commercial opportunities for Lord's and what it was like to join up with MCC during a famous summer of cricket.
What was it like to start a new role at MCC during such an incredible summer?
I'm pinching myself on lots of levels!
Cricket is my first love and MCC is an incredibly special organisation. I walk to work every day with a smile on my face. Coming to the home of cricket is a privilege and to see the things we saw on the pitch, to experience the crowds and the different atmospheres here was sensational.
It’s also an incredibly progressive organisation. One of the misconceptions about MCC is that it's set in its ways and it's reluctant to change but that's simply not the case. I'm really delighted that within a short space of time, we’ve been able to change things like our hospitality offering. And for me that's really exciting and encouraging that we can continue to lead the way rather than follow.
What has that summer done for cricket in this country?
It’s made an immediate impact, certainly in ticket sales and new people engaging with Lord’s. And I think it's had a tremendous effect across the board. Talking to other Counties, and to other grounds, everyone's seen a real surge in interest from new audiences in terms of ballot and ticket sales.
It's a really exciting time - the bar hasn't been higher. Even when we won the 2005 Ashes it arguably wasn’t higher. So it's a real opportunity for us to capitalise on the new-found interest that the World Cup and other remarkable matches have given the game.
It was a really incredible summer... will we ever see a final or even a game quite like the one we saw in the World Cup final?
Do you think having cricket on free-to-air TV helped? And will it help when the Hundred is televised?
Yeah, undoubtedly, but I don't think that's a silver bullet. We've seen a lot of chatter about being on free-to-air broadcasters but that's not where future audiences live and breathe. We know they're on digital channels and on YouTube first and foremost.
It may be great for bringing people back into the game, but the new audiences are the ones that The Hundred’s been geared up around, which is how we're going to engage these people who, at the moment, aren't involved in any way with the game.
We all consume media in different ways, those who are watching cricket on terrestrial are maybe those that are already engaged with the game in some way. It has to be a multi-faceted approach, but it has to be about reaching the different audiences that aren’t engaged through the current options.
MCC is one of the oldest sporting organisations in the world - how does it deal with a new concept like The Hundred?
I think cricket is behind, and new ideas that bring new audiences into the game are the lifeblood of our sport and our future. So our destinies are intertwined. We’re really excited about The Hundred and we're really positive about its potential and the fact that we are targeting new audiences. We need to be creating an environment where people who perhaps haven't considered cricket before can come and enjoy it. I think the experience will be sensational.
It's a really exciting time and, although it's received some negative criticism in terms of where it sits in the landscape, I think the ECB have taken a challenge to the future of the game and they've delivered a product that is getting people talking. Sentiment has become more positive in recent weeks and months, too. MCC are really excited about what it can do for the game, not just here but across the country.
It's a streamlined competition that can create new rivalries and new audiences that can then hopefully filter into the broader County setup. That’s the vision it's bringing: that it will feed the rest of the game. The rivalries are going to be there naturally and people will choose a team - I hope they do!
That’s what it's about. People will probably have made up their mind quite quickly who their team is going to be. But it's an opportunity to bring new people in. We're also going to see some of the world's greatest talent on display.
How is Lord’s adapting to capitalise on the interest?
We've always been looking to deliver the greatest possible experience for anyone who attends, be that players, the media, our members or spectators, and we need to constantly be looking at what customers want from their experience.
As we see a decline in corporate uptake of hospitality packages we've seen an increase in consumers and individuals who are investing more and more in great experiences. They demand great experiences.
What’s in store for Lord’s commercially in 2020 and beyond?
We are redeveloping our Compton & Edrich stands either side of the Media Centre, which is a massive focus for us. That will be reopening in time for the start of the ‘21 season and with that, we are looking at numerous different premium seating opportunities including Debentures, which will be the best seats in world cricket looking at the Pavilion, pretty much behind the bowler’s arm. We’ve got two new state of the art restaurant facilities that will be supporting those premium seats. So that's a big focus for us and we're finalising plans to be on sale in May next year with some of those options.
Naturally there are our commercial partnerships, too. We've got some phenomenal partners here in the likes of JP Morgan, who are going to be turning into their 10th year with us, and we've got Marston's as well who are our pouring partner and a host of other lower tier partners. We've got a great opportunity here, across the board year-round with partnerships that are authentic and add value to our guest experiences.
So they’re probably the top focuses. We do have a number of other non-matchday opportunities and some opportunities across the digital channels as our team continue to produce and deliver exceptional content, too.
You’ve come from an agency background into cricket - what was it like to set up an agency in sport just before the digital boom?
It was an interesting time in that we were sort of coming up after the dot com bubble and digital was obviously in high growth mode - but it was also in flux. When we set the agency up it was to deliver traditional services that could actually blend with the new digital opportunities.
The interesting bit for me was that, historically, you were very limited in terms of the channels through which you could engage. We're going to touch on The Hundred, but it's about where potential audiences live and breathe and how you can reach them and when you're in a quickly-evolving environment, like the sport and entertainment landscape, you have an opportunity with digital to create new opportunities and extend a relationship through content.
It was a very exciting time and, looking back at some of the things that we managed to do and deliver, we were probably ten years ahead of our time, creating campaigns and activities that were driven almost solely through content and on digital channels. It was exciting, but the world wasn't always ready for that.
But it's an environment now where digital is extremely established across the board and is driving the way. But now it's about understanding the technologies out there and what's appropriate for us and what our audience wants - not just expects - and also about how we can make the world better. Thankfully we've got a brilliant digital team here, producing phenomenal content.