Friday, February 27, 2015

Australia v New Zealand, like most of the 42 "Pool" stage matches in the Cricket World Cup, is non-competitive.

"Tomorrow we'll be two long weeks into the Cricket World Cup and excitement is at fever pitch as the two best sides in the tournament prepare to play one another in Auckland." NOT!

Australia and New Zealand will face one another at Eden Park. And as always with clashes of the two rivals from across the Tasman Sea local pride will make the result matter. Sort of. But in the context of the Tournament the outcome is irrelevant. As have been the results of most of the matches so far. Both of tomorrow's teams are guaranteed a place in the Quarter Finals - and that has been the case from the start of the World Cup. The world's top teams have only had to make sure that they do not slip up against one of the "minnows" to ensure that they get into the knockout stage when the proper competition starts. (That's on 18th March, by the way when the first Quarter Final takes place. The 43rd game in the tournament !). 

There has been one "slip up" so far - Ireland's fine win against the West Indies. Could the Irish upset the odds and qualify from Pool "B" ? It's certainly possible that they could be facing Pakistan in the final pool stages match with the winner taking all. But that is the only possible shock outcome and my money would still be on the likelihood that the pre-destined outcome of the eight quarter-finalists being Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and England (from Pool "A") and India, West Indies, South Africa and Pakistan (from Pool "B"). 

England could well lose to Sri Lanka on Saturday (their third defeat out of four) and still qualify for the Q/F by beating Afghanistan and Bangladesh to add to their win over Scotland. That's the fix of the tournament. It makes virtually every match of the 42 Pool matches non-competitive. This hasn't been a World Cup at all it's been a Festival of Cricket. And very nice too you might say. But should the media and the sponsors really be calling the tunes? India HAD to be in the final stages to keep the money men happy and if you are going to fix that you might as well fix it for the other big boys as well. The two hosts. England (the second biggest commercial money-spinner after India) and so on. 

We the public are being fooled by being told that matches like Australia v New Zealand matter. And no doubt both sides will be doing their best to win. But will there be a real cutting edge and will the spectators in Auckland and around the world be on the edges of their seats biting their nails with anxiety about the outcome? Nah

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Our politicians as Brands - there's no "Apple" there !

Back in 1960 JFK was seen as the first to market himself as a "Brand". Not sure he was really, but he was certainly "made" by some slick brand marketing. Here in the UK we don't have a President (boo, we should !) but we have had some powerful personal brands (Wilson, Thatcher, Blair in modern times). So what about now? Here's a personal list of some of the best, and worst of today's lot.

1. Boris Johnson. Easily our strongest personal political brand. Wide appeal. Meets the criterion of the "Love Brand" - you forgive him his mistakes. "Boris" is "Coke" - instantly recognisable. Not the "Real Thing" - but then nor is Coca Cola. 

2. Nigel Farage. Brands need strong visual symbols. Farage has that. The pint and the fag. The grin. He is the quintessential "Marmite" brand and like that product if you like him, you like him and if not you hate him. His appeal is strong, but limited. Like "Boris" he is forgiven his mistakes. But once you've made up your mind one way or another you are unlikely to change. 

3. Ken Clarke. A bete noir of the Tory Right but Ken has the ability to appeal across the political spectrum which is unusual today (Thatcher and Blair had it). Ken is 74 and has missed any chance of Number 10 and knows it. But he keeps on trucking. He has a hinterland (Jazz, beer, cricket...) which makes him interesting where others are not. Fading a bit but still admired. Marks and Spencer.

4. Gordon Brown. Strong identity, Scottish, proud, achiever but deeply flawed. Gordon is the "Royal Bank of Scotland". Still around, but you wonder why. Once very powerful but now at best tolerated - at worst a symbol of failure. Unfair, of course. But that's it with brands. Once they're shot they're shot.

5. Tony Blair. Someone who once was. A brand once the runaway leader that has now fallen spectacularly from grace and is struggling to re-establish itself. Hubris led to pride before the fall and it won't be easy to recover, indeed it may be impossible. Blair is Tesco. The shelves are still stocked, but nobody wants to go there. 

6. Theresa May. May has a strong visual identity and is underpinned by self-confidence but is rather gaffe prone. Unlike Boris (some see him as a rival) she is not forgiven her mistakes, rare though they may be. Most of the time she delivers but when she has a bumpy landing or cancels a flight she is not forgiven. Theresa May is British Airways. 

7. David Cameron. "Call me Dave" has what all brands need - a solid technical product. The bits and pieces of politics, like public speaking, he does well. But it is hard to like him because beneath the solid surface you have no idea what he really stands for. Not because he doesn't tell you, but because you don't believe him. He is superficially the archetypical political professional but it's a veneer. Underneath that veneer you don't trust him. Cameron is BP - and riding for a fall like they did. 

8. Ed Milliband. Ed is nice, capable but hugely maligned. His most commonly used descriptor "Red Ed" is a negative jibe and his most familiar visual symbol, Wallace of "Wallace and Gromitt", was also given to him by his enemies. His own brand identity is taking a long time to emerge and his sponsors are struggling to do it. He is the opposite of Cameron - you do mostly know what he stands for (decent performance and a lack of Flashiness) - for but there is no overwhelmingly strong brand identity to sustain him. He is worthy, and decent but finds it hard to defend himself when under attack. Ed is a Skoda on "Top Gear".  

More to come ? Let me know...! Do we have an "Apple" manqué ? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

How not to apologise - again !

I don't know what Darren Sammy said on the field of play in the match against Ireland today, but it was sufficiently bad for him to apologise on Twitter. See above. But this apology is a classic of its type. Sadly. 

It is in the passive voice. The swear word "came through the stump mike". Note that he doesn't say he swore and apologise for that. You might think that that is implied and self-evident. But why use a passive voice construct when you can say "I'm sorry I swore" ?

The reference to the stump mike is unnecessary anyway. The suggestion here is that it was the fact that the swearing was audible on the broadcast that is important, not the swearing itself. He is apologising for being caught, and for the fact that "young kids [were] listening and watching" not for the act of swearing itself. So what should he have tweeted, given the 140 character limit of the medium? How about:

"I would like to apologise to listeners/viewers for my swearing during today's cricket. It was a bad thing to have done and I'm very sorry."

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The next month of the Cricket World Cup is a fraudulent farce.

The Cricket World Cup starts on Saturday. Except  that it doesn't. It really starts on 18th March when the Quarter Finals begin. So what are we going to do for the next four weeks as we whittle 14 starters down to eight? Create sponsor and media revenues, that's what. Of course matches like Australia v England and India v Pakistan will sort of matter, as they always do. But in the context of the World Cup the result doesn't mean a thing. All four sides will get through to the Quarter-Finals as will New Zealand and Sri Lanka in "Pool A" .In "Pool B" the four qualifiers will be India, Pakistan, South Africa and the West Indies. And going home will be Zimbabwe, Ireland, Scotland, Bangladesh and the UAE. We'll spend a month proving what we knew from the start. There are eight teams that count, and a handful of minnows who don't. 

It's (just) possible there will be an upset.But unlikely. The odds are heavily stacked against any team outside the top 8 getting through. England could lose to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka but still be in the quarter-finals from utterly predictable wins over Bangladesh and Scotland. It's a farce. The money men can't risk India and to a lesser extent Pakistan, Australia and England not being in the knockout stage. So the ICC fixes it so they will be. Fraudulent? You might think so. Come back on 18th Match when the meaningful cricket begins.