On April 2 it generated 45 percent of all page views on ESPN’s mobile platform, and over a million views in the United States alone. Its final was watched not by millions, but by billions around the world, and its professional league, which started just days after it's international final, saw sellout crowds, waves of blonde haired cheerleaders and loud music. It is also the subject of one of the most talked-about documentaries of the upcoming Tribeca Film festival. No its not football or baseball, or NASCAR or even soccer or the X games. And it's not Charlie Sheen. It is cricket, and while it is still not registering in mainstream America or with the media, it is becoming a bigger player on the global sports landscape than ever before. Should we care in North America? The numbers say yes we should.
There is probably no game that has more firmly tried to integrate western culture into its classic style than Indian cricket has. The matches are shorter, the uniforms brighter. the music louder, the dollars larger in the Indian Premier League than ever before. Cheerleaders don the sidelines. sponsors right big checks for signage, fans buy jerseys by the thousands. The result also had a positive effect on the global game, as India took down Sri Lanka to the delight of billions to win this month's World Cup on home soil. So the changes actually enhanced the game rather than slowed its growth. the changes are also being felt in the other Commonwealth countries where the game is played from youth. England, Australia, even the Carribbean, are looking to streamline the game to match the Indian success and dollars. However in North America baseball is still king, with cricket a way distant cousin. However change is in the air. The growing influence from the Caribbean, India and Pakistan is making cricket fields all the more common in cities on both coasts. The New York City public schools has made cricket an accepted sport, and matches televised late at night in sports bars are drawing larger and larger crowds. This is not lost on brands looking to influence the immigrant community, who now may spend more to activate against local cricket leagues and on TV than against Little League or the big dollars of traditional sports in TV. The digital world has given cricketers a chance to expand their highlight offerings, giving the sport even more exposure in short bursts.
Will cricket ever explode into the mainstream of the U.S. or Canada. Probably not, at least not consistently. The education process for those still used to baseball and football and even challenged by soccer may be too great. However for a growing population used to the nuances of the game. The choice between a traditional cricket match with some new style or watching an elongated and confusing baseball game may not be such a stretch. For that reason alone, American brands should be hip to following the cricket story, and see how they may be able to latch on to a growing and fervent wave of interest by a growing population.