Even as I watched the glory of English and (Irish) cricket triumphing in the World Cup, I was feeling embarrassed at how quickly my sporting heroes of just a couple of weeks before (the Women’s football World Cup team) were fading from my memory.
With women’s football reaching unheard of heights in popularity, we can celebrate that there has been a step change in perception, including prime time slots on TV and big audiences. The press backing was also strong – with women’s football breaking out of the nibs on the back pages.
With the cricket, the good time vibes of the 2005 Ashes flowed back in, making us forget for a minute that the final was the only match in the World Cup available on free-to-air channels. Even with this handicap, cricket took its chance to remind us that it exists and that it can be bloody good.
But what now? What happens when the shadows draw in and the juggernaut that is the Premier League starts again? When the wave of a positive British summer of sporting success gives way to an uncertain political autumn. Will converts to women’s football be turning up at league matches on a rainy night in Stoke? Can we see a new generation of cricketers queuing to be let into the indoor nets or plodding away through the mud of their gardens to sling a sodden ball down at the wheelie bins?
Firstly, let me say I hope so. I might also say I do think things have taken a step forward for both sports. The Lionesses has become a strong brand. The team has personality and personalities and there is a wider zeitgeist with characters like US co-captain Megan Rapinoe demanding attention. In the Cricket World Cup we saw what felt like a genuinely shared cultural moment and a team drawn from modern Britain taking it to the wire against excellent and seemingly noble opposition.
Nevertheless, I have a theory that as more media and more stories vie for our attention, the feelgood moments last for shorter and shorter periods of time – especially when you look at England’s poor showing against Ireland in the one-off test match last week. For example, despite the excitement of Great Britain’s women’s hockey team winning at the Rio Olympics, how many people are feeling the buzz ahead of the England women’s team heading to Belgium for next month’s EuroHockey Championships, which can guarantee Tokyo Olympic qualification?
Good product is one thing, but as we would remind our clients, creating and maintaining a successful brand is about more than a one-off event.
Tim Read is a director at Camargue